COVID-19 links and comments: May 8, 2021

Click to enlarge. Source: ScienceDirect

Why DId It Take So Long to Accept the Facts About Covid? by Zeynep Tufekci for The New York Times.  The importance of airborne transmission of the virus, rather than droplets, has been known for many months, but the WHO and CDC have been slow to admit it.

If the importance of aerosol transmission had been accepted early, we would have been told from the beginning that it was much safer outdoors, where these small particles disperse more easily, as long as you avoid close, prolonged contact with others.  We would have tried to make sure indoor spaces were well ventilated, with air filtered as necessary.  Instead of blanket rules on gatherings, we would have targeted conditions that can produce superspreading events: people in poorly ventilated indoor spaces, especially if engaged over time in activities that increase aerosol production, like shouting and singing.  We would have started using masks more quickly, and we would have paid more attention to their fit, too.  And we would have been less obsessed with cleaning surfaces. 

Our mitigations would have been much more effective, sparing us a great deal of suffering and anxiety.

The difference between droplets and aerosols is like the difference between raindrops and fog.  Droplets fall to the ground and sick to surfaces.  Aerosols float in the air indefinitely. 

If you’re out of doors, and not in a tightly-packed crowd, you’re not in much danger from aerosols.  But if you’re in a poorly ventilated space for a long period of time, you’re going to breathe the same air as other people in that space, no matter how far apart you are.

This makes a big difference in how you protect yourself from the virus.  For example, masks are important indoors.  Outdoors, not so much.

To see this misunderstanding in action, look at what’s still happening throughout the world. In India, where hospitals have run out of supplemental oxygen and people are dying in the streets, money is being spent on fleets of drones to spray anti-coronavirus disinfectant in outdoor spaces.  Parks, beaches and outdoor areas keep getting closed around the world.  This year and last, organizers canceled outdoor events for the National Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington, D.C.  Cambodian customs officials advised spraying disinfectant outside vehicles imported from India.  The examples are many.

Meanwhile, many countries allowed their indoor workplaces to open but with inadequate aerosol protections.  There was no attention to ventilation, installing air filters as necessary or even opening windows when possible, more to having people just distancing three or six feet, sometimes not requiring masks beyond that distance, or spending money on hard plastic barriers, which may be useless at best.  (Just this week, President Biden visited a school where students were sitting behind plastic shields.) 


The following quote is from “Lambert Strether” on the Naked Capitalism blog.

It’s really amazing: A 21st Century Marshall plan to build global vaccination capacity would, at a stroke, win back all the soft power squandered by Bush, Obama, and Trump, in addition to saving a few million lives.

The realpolitik and the right thing to do coincide, and all you have to do is expropriate a few malefactors that voters hate and who are going to make plenty of money anyhow.

Trump, with Operation Warp Speed, thought big.  Now Biden is playing small ball, because that’s where the money is for the party … .

Source: lambert strether | naked capitalism


The origin of COVID: DId people or nature open Pandora’s box at Wuhan? by Nicholas Wade for the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists.  This is an evidence-based argument for thinking that the virus probably originated in a laboratory accident rather than animal-to-human transmission.

What Are the Anti-Vaxxers Thinking? by Derek Thompson for The Atlantic.  A lot of people have been out in the world through the pandemic who figure that they’ve already had COVID9 and survived, or that their risk of getting the virus is low.  This is mingled with a strong and well-founded distrust of authority.  Oddly, college-educated liberals are very understanding of this attitude when manifested by black people, but not otherwise.

CDC website now emphasizes coronavirus spreads in the air by Maggie Fox for CNN.

Scientific Brief: SARS CoV Transmission by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

How can airborne transmission of COVID-19 be minimized? by ScienceDirect.

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One Response to “COVID-19 links and comments: May 8, 2021”

  1. Fred (Au Natural) Says:

    Sometimes disinformation is distributed for what the government thinks is a public “good.” Put simply, droplets aren’t as expensive to protect against as fog. Nobody wanted to spend the zigabucks it would take to ensure adequate air circulation. We pretend that we don’t need to do that because it isn’t going to happen and we don’t want to panic people.

    Masks and social distancing do help in many situations and are trivial in cost compared to massive upgrades to HVAC systems, so we’ll go with that.

    I think the restrictions on low density outdoor activities and the focus on sanitizing surfaces started out from being in a position of ignorance (if you don’t know what to do, do everything you can afford to) and then continued as a form of hygiene theater. It makes people feel better to see that locations are hard at work doing something, even if that something accomplished very little.

    Anti-vaxxers are powerful because it falls along tribal divisions. Membership in your chosen tribe is always more important than rational behavior – left or right. If the democrats appear to push the vaccine, the republicans will tend to resist it.

    If we’d acted this way towards smallpox, we’d still be fight epidemics all over the world. It is an indication of how toxic the political situation and how unimportant scientific literacy have become.


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