Health News Digest

November 9, 2020

Year End COVID-19 Questions And Concerns

By Michael D. Shaw

As we endure the continuing saga of SARS-CoV-2, most people are cautiously trying to bring more normalcy back into their lives. That’s admirable, but some questions remain…

Latest WHO recommendations—For months, we have been hearing about six feet (1.83 meters) as the proper social distance to limit disease transmission. At some point, though, this changed to 1 meter (3.28 ft or 39.37 in). This article from June attempted to explain the science (or lack of it) in determining these distance guidelines.

WHO’s Mask Q&A is here. Within the Q&A, it is certainly implied that masks are mainly required if one-meter social distancing cannot be maintained. To cite a recent personal example, I was standing in a properly socially distanced line, outdoors, waiting to enter a polling place. According to WHO, under these conditions, wearing a mask was at best optional. Yet, I was one of the very few people who was in this line–unmasked.

WHO also specifies what sort of masks (medical/non-medical) should be worn by different groups. But, outside of a true healthcare setting, I have never seen this followed. In fact, it does not even seem to be universally respected in healthcare settings, by non-medical personnel.

Holiday Gatherings—The CDC has its recommendations, which, it is quick to point out, “are meant to supplement–not replace–any state, local, territorial, or tribal health and safety laws, rules, and regulations with which holiday gatherings must comply.” Most of these are common sense, but may be difficult to implement in reality. This time, the “kiddie table” could become one of the more desirable seating locations.

As to the states, regulations will differ, with California’s being among the most stringent. There is some indication that these might be modified as the holidays approach.

This sort of thing is a subset of the lockdown mentality, that ignored the vulnerable, while casting a pall on those who test positive–symptomatic or not. Meanwhile, the UK is back into a severe lockdown. This, despite growing evidence that lockdowns don’t do much except delay infections. Cf. Great Barrington Declaration.

Full marks if you see the similarity between the lockdown mentality and the long-disproved cholesterol/coronary heart disease theory. It takes a long time for a medical meme to die.

Holiday Travel—By all rights, being in a crowded space (such as a commercial airliner) for hours on end is not exactly an ideal situation. However, the science seems to indicate that it really is not so bad. this study concludes that “[T]he risk of SARS-CoV-2 transmission on an aircraft is reduced to very low levels through the combination of layered infection control measures.”

These control measure include…

1.     All onboard should be required to wear face masks for their entire journey.

2.     Removing masks to eat or drink should be kept to an absolute minimum, in order to maintain the significant protections afforded by universal face mask wearing. Use straws when feasible.

3.     When one passenger briefly removes a mask to eat or drink, other passengers in close proximity should keep their masks on.

In addition, there are various recommendations for the airlines, in terms of minimizing crowd density during boarding/deplaning procedures, disinfection protocols, and ventilation of the aircraft.

The findings in this study echo those of an earlier one, sponsored by United States Transportation Command (USTRANSCOM) & Air Mobility Command (AMC).

Are Asymptomatic Positives Contagious?—The percentage of asymptomatic positives varies widely, depending on the study. In this one, it is 36% at first, but after isolation 19% developed symptoms. In another, which focused on healthcare workers, it is 40%. And, this one, run in the UK, pegs it at 86% (with regard to COVID-19 symptoms).

Notwithstanding their sheer numbers, are these people contagious? Yes, but perhaps less so than those with an acute illness, since they will not be coughing or sneezing. Likewise, there can be asymptomatic flu “positives,” who are also contagious, only we’ve never cared who they were. What if we did? Now that’s a scary idea.