Two major events came together in a crash last week as protests and rioting over the murder of George Floyd by police in Minneapolis reminded us that there is more happening around us than this historic pandemic. So, how do these two events come together?
Current guidance from the CDC is for mask-wearing and social distancing even when outdoors particularly when in close contact within groups of 10 or more people. Certainly, in the early days of protests when rioting, looting, and arson were seen nightly on news media, large numbers of people were seen in the streets not wearing masks and certainly not maintaining a safe distance apart.
The convergence of these things on our streets has been deemed by some to be a great experiment on the transmissibility and infectivity of COVID-19. Presumably, this defiance, including thousands of people nation-wide, sets us up for an increase in the numbers of new daily infections and spikes of disease where the gatherings were most prevalent (e.g. Minneapolis, Atlanta, New York, Los Angeles, and Washington D.C., to name a few of the larger demonstrations).
However, there have been suggestions (only suggestions) that COVID-19 may not be as transmissible as we thought. A recent scientific publication has reported that if you are standing within 3 feet of an infected person, the odds of being infected are about 18%; the risk drops to less than 5% if you maintain a distance greater that 3 feet . If you are not wearing a surgical mask the independent risk is about 15%. The risk drops to about 3% if you are wearing a mask. It is also becoming clear that spread from asymptomatic carriers of the virus or from inanimate surfaces is possibly much lower than originally feared.
So, if we continue to see a dearth of new infections occurring seven to 14 days following the demonstrations, then it would indicate that the spread of the virus, at least outdoors, is less a threat than originally proposed.
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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