Still disinfecting the groceries? News on how Covid’s spread, plus other sciency stuff

A new study reports that most Covid infections are spread by aerosols–in other words, by the awkward fact that we breathe, a process that leads us to trade both air and germs with those we love, not to mention those we don’t. Earlier studies measured how long the virus could survive on objects and speculated about that as a route of transmission, but this one didn’t find much evidence that transmission happens that way in the real world. 

So the good news is that you can stop boiling the toilet paper when you bring it home from the store. Also that those masks really do make a difference–possibly to you, but definitely to the people around you. And that keeping your distance from other people is good protection.

But anytime you say, “The good news is,” you have to follow it with parallel bad news. So the bad news, if we’re to believe the rumor I heard yesterday, is that people are expecting Britain to go into another lockdown and already they’re panic buying. Because the country’s semi-officially in the second wave of the pandemic. Cases are doubling every week. The test and trace system that was supposed to let us control the spread is demented, broken, and–forgive the technical language here–completely fucked. The people who purport to govern the country say they want to avoid a lockdown, and the more they say it, the more inevitable it looks. So stock up on toilet paper. Also flour. And if you’re British, baked beans. 

Everything else you can do without. Unless you have pet food. Stock up on pet food.

Irrelevant photo: Erigeron. Really. That’s what they’re called.

But forget rumor. Let’s go back to science and the study I was talking about. It also reports that Covid transmission is highest about a day before the symptoms show up, making complete nonsense of the idea that we should limit tests to people with symptoms. 

No transmission has been documented after a patient’s had symptoms for a week. That doesn’t completely rule it out, but it does kind of point us in that direction.


A new study of Covid and singing–more bad news; sorry, everyone–pretty much contradicts the last study of aerosols and singing that I told you about. That earlier one measured the aerosols and droplets sprayed into the air by individual singers and by individual speakers and reported that quiet singing doesn’t spread aerosols much more than quiet speaking does. Turn up the volume on either and you up the Covid spread.


This latest study looked at a superspreader event involving one choir rehearsal that caused over fifty cases of Covid and two deaths. It broke down people’s interactions at the rehearsal, concluding that the combination of poor ventilation, many people, a long rehearsal, and body heat led to a buildup of aerosols that circulated with the air in the room.

No one was wearing masks. This was well before masks were recommended, and although I haven’t tried singing through one I have trouble imagining that it’d work well. 


A third study reports that most homemade masks work just fine, even when we sneeze. Emphasis on most. I still see the occasional online photo of or pattern for crocheted masks. What are people thinking? They might as well take chalk and draw a mask on their faces.

Or magic marker if they want a longer-lasting useless gesture.

Sorry about the lack of a link here. I cleverly linked it to this post. By the time I figured that out, I’d lost the actual article.


One more study and then I’ll shut about about science and we can go back to the glorious and multicolored ignorance that marks public life these days. This one comes from Dublin, was presented at a conference involving many initials, and shows that about half the people who get ill with Covid have persistent fatigue ten weeks after they recover, even if they had mild cases. The fatigue hits women more often than men.


A man coming back from traveling abroad was told to isolate himself for two weeks. Instead he went on a pub crawl with some friends. They hit a number of pubs, then two days later the returned traveler tested positive. 

The area went from 12 cases per 100,000 to 212 cases per 100,000 in less than three weeks. 

See? I told you we’d stop talking about science.


Spain is developing a test that will allow people to test themselves and get a result in thirty minutes. It works like the gizmos that diabetics use to measure their blood sugar, meaning a person could use it and reuse it, and it gives no false positives.

Does it give any false negatives? Good question, and wasn’t I clever to ask it? I’m not sure. I could only find one reasonably up-to-date article on the thing and it didn’t say. 

The test is called the Convat and it’s “very advanced” and “almost at a pre-commercial level,” whatever that means. It sounds good unless you slow down, at which point you notice how little you understand it. 

It may be available to the public in December or January. Emphasis on may.

Now the fine print: They’re talking about the public in Spain. The project manager, Laura Lechuga, talked about the importance of having Spanish technology, since what’s available in one country may not become available in another. In other words, this is Spain trying to make sure they can handle their problems, not ours.

Sorry to tease you with that. We really need to all be in this together, but at the moment we don’t seem to be.

46 thoughts on “Still disinfecting the groceries? News on how Covid’s spread, plus other sciency stuff

  1. Here in the US the anti-mask brigade is living proof of the concerted effort by the powers that be to replace any notion of the ‘common good’ with nationalistic fervor and a love of private property. Fortunately, the extremists of the lot are a minority.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. The rumours about the pub crawl person in Bolton – a borough which neighbours mine – have been circulating for weeks, but Bolton council confirmed them yesterday. I hope he/she is pleased with themselves. Several people are in hospital, and some cafes and pubs may never reopen after having to close again. And there are so many stories, in different parts of the country, about house parties, or about pubs which aren’t bothering with social distancing. I feel sorry for the authorities – what chance have they got with idiots like that around?

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I think I’m going to carry on disinfecting the groceries, assuming I can still get them, for a while. I also operate a quarantine system for items that we don’t need immediately.

    I see there are now large fines for people who don’t self-isolate. We could have done with that six months ago.

    Liked by 1 person

    • We could’ve done a lot of things. Lot not opened up to foreign holidays. Like put up enough money to make it possible for low-paid people to stay home from work when they’re told to quarantine. Like made sure that people who were supposed to stay home really do. Like replaced this government with one that has some minimal competence. Oops, sorry, that came from a different list. I get confused sometimes. I need a cup of tea. Care to join me?

      Liked by 2 people

    • I also still quarantine my newly purchased groceries for 3-4 days. I wipe down those that go in the fridge. What can it hurt? Directives have turned on a dime.

      Liked by 2 people

      • It can’t hurt at all, but this isn’t about directives but what scientists are, little by little, figuring out. It’s all being patched together as they go, so yes, it’s tentative. I expect I’ll keep wiping down everything wipable as well.


  4. It’s hard enough trying to follow the science. Once you run it through a few politicians and a 24-hour news cycle, it might as well have been written by Dr. Seuss. I guess the good news is I was rejected when I attempted to join the Junior Choir. Scarred me for life. I never tried again.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. What is with people and panic buying? There’s so much toilet paper now that you could boil it and serve it as an English side dish. Hopefully this time, the stores limit quantities immediately so that shortages don’t happen again the way they did in April.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I see they’re talking about the Rule of Six might be lifted just for Christmas Day.
    I think it must be that actually eating brussel sprouts might give immunity (just giving your Google rating for brussel sprouts mentions a bit of a lift. You’re welcome.)

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Ellen, I hope the second wave doesn’t hit the US. I’ve been using too many paper towels thinking there will be plenty to buy. Oh, Oh, and what about toilet paper? Sorry, if you are going back to short supply of goods in the UK. Haven’t we all had enough of this virus. Let’s move on the the flu. At least there’s a vaccine. Have a happy rest of the week. Hope all is well. 📚 Christine

    Liked by 1 person

      • I think the US has one big wave going. And it will roll right into our flu season. Panic tweeting—rumors most likely. Stock up anyway. I’ve done that forever even before COVID. Don’t ask me why. 🤨Must be security based. 🤔

        Liked by 1 person

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