Cases of COVID-19 are surging in many southern states in particular. The United States has reported more than 4,000,000 cases of the disease and over 141,000 deaths. South Dakota is reporting about 37 new cases per day, 118 people dead from the disease and a total of almost 8,000 total cases. It will not be long before we join the rest of America with an overwhelmed testing ability and full ICUs – a recipe for a medical emergency long before a vaccine is available.
Florida is now the epicenter of the disease with the numbers of new cases “out of control.” Please take a good look at what has happened there, and we can easily predict what will happen here in August with the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally now expecting 400,000-500,000 attendees. Our so-far-sleepy and out-of-the-way towns will change overnight. Residents in Meade and Lawrence counties will lose access to healthcare at least through the end of 2020 as these services are consumed by out-of-state visitors who fall ill and spread the virus dynamically, infecting local residents as they then fall ill 14 days or more after the Rally ends.
We have learned that COVID virus is airborne and spread in the tiniest of droplets that project 24-27 feet and linger suspended in the air for as long as three hours. Activities such as exercise, shouting and singing make this condition worse; doing these things indoors further exacerbates spread of the disease. So how can we safely open schools and churches? Social distancing and mandatory wearing of masks is crucial. We can make certain that classrooms and sanctuaries be well-ventilated with air from the outdoors. We can install ultraviolet lamps at strategic places to kill airborne virus and virus that has fallen on surfaces. We can also use air-purifiers that filter out these tiniest of virus-containing droplets. I have consulted with the leadership from the Lead-Deadwood school district and made these suggestions.
It is regrettable that something as innocuous as wearing a mask in public has become something that Americans are willing to die in order to make some claim of independence that personally I don’t understand. These holdouts endanger each and every one of us.
Dr. John Andrews, “Doc John” of Lead, has a doctorate in virology, immunology, and microbiology who, after a career in developing prescription drugs, is now working on drug development to target COVID-19. He will be offering columns every two weeks about the progress of finding a vaccine for the virus.
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