Fighting Covid: the useless gestures and the useful ones

An article in a Canadian medical journal notes that the country’s Covid prevention advice hasn’t caught up with the current knowledge about how the disease spreads. It’s airborne, so the advice, the article says, should focus on ventilation, filtration, and better masks. 

Having recently been at a meeting where before going home we dutifully sprayed and wiped the furniture, even though it’s pointless–

Yeah. How many other people are ending meetings that way? It’s like sanitizing our hands when we walk into a shop. It’s not a useful way to keep Covid from spreading, but it’s basic politeness these days–one of those many meaningless gestures that you do to keep from scaring people.

Irrelevant photo: I wish I could tell you what this is. It’s one of a whole set of large white wildflowers that I’ve never been able to tell apart. They don’t look all that much alike, but somehow I just can’t sort out large white flowers.

A fair number of people seem to think of masks the same way, putting on masks only when other people come in, even though if they have any virus to share the breathing they did when they were alone in the room would go a long way toward sharing it.

At the meeting, we did at least open the windows, keep a decent distance, and wear masks, although not all the masks covered all the relevant body parts. You have to hope people do better with the placement of their underwear. 

As far as I know, Britain’s advice hasn’t caught up with what’s now known any better than Canada’s has.


Someone I know likes to tell me, with great confidence, that face masks funnel air–along with whatever germs the wearer’s sporting–off to the sides and from there to whoever’s behind the wearer. 

Okay, when I say “likes,” what I mean is “seems to like,” basing that on how often she talks about it. Maybe it’s just that my caution annoys her. I have that effect on some people.

So allow me to smugly report on a new study that measured the leakage from the sides of everyday masks. These weren’t the surgical masks that are made to have a tight fit but the ones civilians buy and, with luck, wear. They reduced the escape of particles–and that would include the Covid virus if it’s present–by an average of 93% They reduce escape from the bottom by 91%, from the sides by 85%, and from the top by 47%.

The moral of this story is that if you’re worried about masks funneling the virus toward you, do not lie on top of a mask-wearer’s head. 

You’re welcome.

The protection’s best when both people are wearing masks.

Covid and kids

During the first half of 2020, no one had reliable information about Covid’s effect on kids. Early reports on the hospitalization rate among kids spanned a jaw-dropping range from 5.7% to 63%. Estimates of its impact ranged from “it’s no worse than the flu” to fears that kids’ immature immune systems would be overwhelmed.

What can I tell you? It was new on the scene and they were working with limited information. 

So now there’s a study of 242,000 kids and adolescents from five countries who’ve been diagnosed with Covid. It compares them with 2 million who’ve been diagnosed with the flu.

What do we now know?

Epidemiologist Talita Duarte-Salles said, “It was a relief to see that fatality was rare, but clearly both complications and symptoms showed the COVID-19 was no flu in children and adolescents.” To translate that (forgive me: I just have to), kids aren’t likely to die of it, but the symptoms and complications can be serious.

We’re switching sources here, so bear with me. I had a very useful article on this that I accidentally deleted and now can’t find, so I’ll slip backwards to a somewhat less useful one that came out in April. It has estimates for the number of kids who had Covid symptoms five weeks after they were diagnosed. 

The percentages clearly aren’t of all kids, and I’m reasonably sure it’s not of all kids diagnosed with Covid. Let’s put our chips on the number of kids who got symptomatic Covid. Five weeks after they were diagnosed, 12.9% of kids between 2 and 11 still had symptoms, as did 14.5% of kids between 12 and 15 and 17.!% of teenagers and young adults. That’s a bizarre set of age categories, since the last one includes one of the earlier ones plus a few other random folks. 

Don’t worry about it. Any statisticians who accidentally read Notes have long since fled.

Another study followed 129 children who’d had Covid and found that 52.7% had at least one symptom four months later.

Some of the individual stories are frightening. They’re typical–they’re rare–but they do happen and it’s important to know that. One nine-year-old developed long Covid that included severe fatigue, sensitive skin, painful rashes, headaches, and indigestion. She lost her senses of taste and smell. Another–also a nine-year-old–had slurred speech, tremors, and brain fog. He became so weak that he had to use first a walker and then a wheelchair.

Again, none of that is typical, but as the epidemiologist said, this is not the flu.

32 thoughts on “Fighting Covid: the useless gestures and the useful ones

  1. I was in Tesco’s this morning (the home delivery app was broken and we needed some food) and I saw people who clearly didn’t know where their noses or mouths were. This was seconds after a tannoy announcement that face coverings should cover both.

    If it’s a wild flower and it’s got white flowers like that I call it cow parsley, whatever it is. Give it a go, you’ll feel better.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. In regards to COVID-19 and kids, true they don’t get extremely sick but they still get infected. Missy’s school had crazy amount of cases this year due to stupidity like not so secret sleepovers (overly honest young kids telling their poor teachers after weekends). Current tally is 4/14 kids that had COVID-19 in her class but thankfully none had complications. Québec is reopening really fast and it is scary with potential variants.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. Your irrelevant photo is of Daucus carota, whose common names include wild carrot, bird’s nest, bishop’s lace, and Queen Anne’s lace, is a white, flowering plant in the family Apiaceae, native to temperate regions of Europe and southwest Asia, and naturalized to North America and Australia. Wikipedia

    Liked by 1 person

    • Many thanks. Wild carrot or Queen Anne’s lace are probably the names I can remember. I’m usually fairly good with wildflowers, but I have a blind spot with these. I could almost explain it, but honestly it doesn’t matter. Tall white flowers send me running for cover. Maybe if I try to learn one a year I can manage it. I’ll file it under Tall White Flower That Blooms When the Alexanders Are Going to Seed.

      Which is much too long for a file label.


  4. I live in one of Canada’s hotspots where COVID-19 is rampant. I haven’t had COVID-19 [yet] and have the first shot of 2. It takes forever to get vaccinated here. I’m also a contact tracer and a health care worker in a hospital, and for the first time in weeks, cases have finally started to decline. They’ve declined so much that I was switched back from full time to casual relief (which I’m actually quite happy about – I needed a break!). As for the hospital, I go back in July. Hoping to have my second dose by then.

    I agree that our masks suck. They don’t do much to protect us at all but it’s better than nothing, and still better to reinforce mask wearing than wearing no mask at all. My advice for people is to use common sense. Wash your hands. Still wear a mask. Keep a 2m distance from people. Don’t leave the house unless you need to. Be outside if you absolutely must leave the house. The main thing I’m seeing now is pandemic fatigue where people are becoming less and less compliant. Seeing cases go down is at least giving people some hope.

    P.S. I have a newborn at home so I really can not afford to get sick and pass it to him.

    Liked by 2 people

    • With a newborn, yes, you’re playing a high-stakes game. Protect yourself. I’m glad the rates are falling finally. Ours are rising, although (so far) hospitalizations and deaths aren’t. Fingers crossed that it stays that way.

      A friend said to me yesterday that, well, we have to learn to live with Covid, and I think there’s a lot of that going around. People are tired of it. They want to move on. Well–as one of the former kids in my life used to say–I want a pony. How many people have to die for us to live with Covid?

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Covid is not your grandmother’s flu.
    Thank you for not citing the middle-aged American woman who is refusing to get the vaccine because after you get the injection, metallic objects will mysteriously fly through the air to attach themselves to your body because the vaccine is really magnetic material designed to kill you.
    I swear I heard her talking about this on the news last night but forgot where she was from – I’m gonna take a wild stab it’s Texas. No wonder democracy is in imminent danger.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. If the stem is square, it’s in the mallow family (at least that’s what I learned as a kid). But I like the cow parsley suggestion as across the board rule tbh

    Liked by 1 person

    • And if it’s part of the mallow family, then it’s not poisonous? Or it is poisonous? Not, mind you, that I’m going to go down the road munching any of them…

      Queen Anne’s lace seems to be another across-the-board name for this category.


  7. I don’t know where UK sources its sanitizers, but here in this Outpost of Empire, the prats are spending millions on the pointless stuff and I note all the labels have “Product of China” on them. Add to the cost the squillions of carbon credits that must be sucked up by transport…
    And our Glorious Leader reckons coal is going to save us….

    Liked by 1 person

  8. That plant–maybe it is Queen Anne’s Lace or cow parsley, but it could just as well be poison hemlock (Conium maculatum in Latin). It’s really poisonous. It’s the plant that did in Socrates (well, some would say wandering around Athens corrupting the youth did him in, but poison hemlock was the instrument used to finish him off). Kids have been known to die from making whistles from the hollow stems. It’s about 4-5 feet tall and has white umbel type flowers, like the one in your photo. A key identifier is purple spots on the stems. In general, don’t eat any plant that looks like this. Or make a whistle from it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Umbel! That’s the word explains a lot. In my wildflower book, I think they’re called umbellifers, which my eye and memory have conspired to turn into umbrellifers, and so they stick in my head as Confusing White Umbrellifers. Which almost makes sense, since the heads spread out like umbrellas.

      I always pictured hemlock as a piney plant. No idea why. But I did know that one of the umbrellas is poisonous. In another comment, someone thought this one might be a wild carrot. Actually, she sounded fairly sure. I could be convinced of anything, but mostly not to go around munching (or blowing through) wild umbrellas. I promise to be careful on this score. And thanks for making sense of the label my mind clung onto.

      Liked by 2 people

    Texas ? Lord no, one of the loony magnet ladies is from OHIO – heart of the Confederacy (of dunces) where the state legislature Repubs want to impeach our GOP Governor because he used sensible pandemic measures.

    One good thing to come out of Ohio :Purell hand sanitizer is made there.

    As a person with a substantial nose, I am appalled at the number of people with noses no larger than mine who feel they can’t cover them with a mask.

    I had not taken notice that the G-7 is in Cornwall, This is the most I have ever seen of Cornwall on the news. It is indeed lovely – and rugged – and seems a bit out of the way for a world summit, so I was wondering how the locals felt about it ?

    Liked by 2 people

    • Most people that I’ve heard from tend to be annoyed that the G7’s bothering us, bringing in all sorts of people–not just world leaders but security, press, aides, everything it takes to keep that mess running–with all the chances of setting up a germ exchange that goes with it. And with all the traffic blockage, the disruption–

      All that.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Yes, I wondered how you & yours would be felling about G7 – purely from an “all those people” perspective, not that the idiot & his bird are there with all their international peers. I read that a food bank charity within the core catchment had to make up food parcels for a two week period as those needing them couldn’t get to them while G7 is on. If that isn’t a metaphor for something…

    Liked by 2 people

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