What stolen science tells us about the pandemic

Remember when we used to hear that kids don’t spread Covid? Remember when we used to hear that the earth was flat? 

Yeah, I really am that old.

New research tells us that opening the schools has helped drive second waves of the virus, because yes, kids do spread the virus. Even those cute little younger ones who are unlikely to get sick themselves–they can spread the virus too. They’re high-minded little creatures, and they like to share.

It’s our own fault. We taught them sharing was good.

A study in Germany found that in the majority of cases, kids’ infections hadn’t been spotted because they’d been asymptomatic. Or to put that another way, you find a lot more cases if you test for them. 

A different study, this one in Australia, showed that the majority of kids don’t transmit the disease to anyone. But that doesn’t let kids off the hook. The same thing’s true of adults: Just 10% of infected people are responsible for 80% of infections.

At a minimum, the article I stole my statistics from recommends that staff and students (including primary school students) should wear masks, school buildings should be well ventilated, and class sizes should be reduced.

*

Again contrary to the standard wisdom from the early days of the pandemic, a study of masks shows that they protect both the wearer and people near the wearer. 

The reason they were thought not to protect the wearer is that the virus is tiny–about 0.1 microns. (Why 0.1 gets a plural is beyond me–it’s less than singular–but try it with a singular and your ear will scream explain how wrong it is. The English language doesn’t come armed for less-than-singular.) 

Small the virus may be, but according to airborne disease transmission expert Linsey Marr, the virusdoesn’t come out of us naked.” It clothes itself in the beautiful respiratory droplets known as aerosols, which contain salts, proteins, and organic compounds. With all that wrapped around its shoulders, the virus ends up looking like that portrait of Henry VIII and can be up to 100,000 times larger than the virus is without clothes. 

Irrelevant photo: An azalea starting to blossom indoors. It should really be a picture of Henry VIII, but he died before cameras were invented.

If you want a breakdown of fabrics and what percentage of aerosols they filter out, you’ll have to click the link. You can’t trust me with that level of detail. In the meantime, though, walk outside feeling confident that your mask isn’t just protecting others, it’s also protecting your own good self.

*

The bad news about masks is that they deteriorate over time. The elastic stretches, the loops fall out of love with your ears, and the fibers get thin. The Centers for Disease Control recommends replacing them periodically. 

Phooey.

*

A study from the University of Colorado and Harvard says that frequent fast testing–even with less-than-ideally-accurate tests–could stomp the virus into the ground. People who tested positive could get personalized stay-at-home orders and, at least in theory, bars, restaurants, stores, and schools could stay open.

The important thing, according to the calculations, is to test a population often–as much as twice a week–and get the results back quickly. 

The quick tests can cost as little as $1 each. One of the researchers said, “Less than .1% of the current cost of this virus would enable frequent testing for the whole of the U.S. population for a year.”

*

Boris Johnson is promising England (or possibly Britain–it gets hazy, or I do) a mass testing program. I’m not sure what the details are, but until proven otherwise I’ll expect the usual competence we see from his government–in other words, a shambles. 

I’d love to be wrong on that, but the thing is, a testing program only works if you do something sensible with the information. 

In the meantime, the plans for Christmas are to declare a five-day truce so that families–up to three households–can get together, trade presents, overeat, and let long-buried family tensions surface festively. 

Cynic? Me?

Christmas truce negotiations with the virus are ongoing and look as hopeful as the Brexit negotiations. 

*

I’m still wiping down my groceries and feeling like a bit of a maniac, since there’s been no evidence that in the real world Covid is spread by touching contaminated surfaces. Now there’s–well, something vaguely related to evidence:

An outbreak in Shanghai has been traced back to a couple of cargo handlers and who were sent to clean a contaminated container from North America. The container was damp and closed while they cleaned it, and neither was wearing a mask. The virus likes sealed, damp environments. 

Neither of them was taking groceries out of a shopping bag and they may well have caught it from airborne particles, so it’s not at all the same thing, but what can wiping down the groceries hurt? It gives me the illusion that I have some control over how this mess affects me.

*

France’s current lockdown rules demands that people who are out carry a note, an attestation, with their name and address, the time they left home, and the reason for their trip. 

It’s been interesting.

When the police stopped one man who was hiding behind a car and looking suspicious, he was carrying a meticulously filled-our attestation: name, address, time.

Why had he left home? 

“To smash a guy’s face in.”

“We told him his reason for going out was not valid,” the local police chief said.

In either this lockdown or the last one, a man told the police he was going to see his grandmother. 

What was her name?

He couldn’t remember.

 

46 thoughts on “What stolen science tells us about the pandemic

  1. ‘The bad news about masks is that they deteriorate over time. The elastic stretches, the loops fall out of love with your ears, and the fibers get thin. The Centers for Disease Control recommends replacing them periodically. ‘ You mean like real clothes? ;-)
    Meanwhile, back in France: ‘Why had he left home? “To smash a guy’s face in.” “We told him his reason for going out was not valid,” the local police chief said.
    Now in Brengland this would have played out at the Old Bailey as something like: ‘Objection, Milud, the guy’s name was Boris.’ Judge: ‘Case dismissed.’

    Liked by 1 person

  2. The virus roars ahead apace, but at least the Loser of our Last Election has finally allowed his people to share some information with He who Actually won. We have totally lost track of Brexit. Sorry.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. What will this french lockdown do for the popular sport of carrying the body of the deceased from a commune in which the cost of burial is high to a commune where the costs are more affordable, using whatever vehicle the family can muster.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. For what it’s worth, we’re still washing down our groceries. Glad to know about the schools. I was just talking to a friend on Monday about this. She was saying that schools are safe but I was skeptical, thinking, why would they be? However, I had no evidence to refute the claim.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I have been baffled by some of what has been said. Even though some people might be more susceptible to suffering more severe symptoms, surely anyone can be a vehicle for the virus.
    Every year when the children go back to school, colds and other infections illnesses do the rounds (nits and worms and all sorts of strange skin thingies). How was anyone expecting coronavirus not to jump at the chance to move around through schools?

    Yet it does seem that it is not the children who will suffer most from coming into contact with the coronavirus, it is more about who they might bring it home to.

    I don’t know what the answer is. I do think it may be best for children to be at school rather than at home in many cases – although I know some of my friends loved the chance to home educate their children. But in many other cases, I think it could have been detrimental for some children.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m sure the kids with the best educated parents do best when they’re home schooled. The rest flounder. Teaching isn’t what their lives have prepared them to be good at. And when parents are working, what on earth are they supposed to do with their kids? Put them in the freezer?

      But yes, how could we think kids wouldn’t spread the virus when we know that asymptomatic people spread it? I think the confusion started when kids weren’t in schools and so there was no evidence that they spread the virus. But as someone or other said, absence of evidence isn’t evidence of absence. Governments anxious to reopen the schools–for both good and bad reasons–may have jumped on that and blown it out of proportion.

      Like

  6. My 15 year old was recently put into isolation, one of the other pupils in his class tested positive. He knew that he may, according to the ‘evidence’ that they tell the kids, not be seriously ill himself, but he was absolutely crushed and seriously very afraid and messed up about the fact he might have unknowingly passed it on to his mother, sister or elderly grandparents.
    It may be the case that kids are statistically not going to be the ones to suffer too badly from having the virus themselves, but Government seem to be missing, at an already sensitive time (he’s a teenage boy–yes, all that–in a GCSE exam year) the effect that this sort of mortifying fear is having on their young mental health.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m convinced that if the government could take a step to one side and let public health experts communicate with the public, it would be handled with more sensitivity–and more accuracy. Yes, kids need to take it seriously. Yes, we read about groups of young people who don’t. But I’m with you, kids need to be treated with some respect and care, not blamed or terrified.

      Liked by 1 person

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