My Coronavirus Notes

Here I'm pulling together a few different bits of information on dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic that I believe to be correct.

Starting with: Should you wear a mask when out and about?

Yes. See this post from Daring Fireball's John Gruber. "We’re waiting for peer-reviewed studies. In the meantime, early studies and anecdotal evidence from countries with established mask-wearing social norms suggest quite strongly that mask wearing is effective." (May 21, 2020.)

See also "HAMSTER RESEARCH SHOWS MASKS EFFECTIVE IN PREVENTING COVID-19 TRANSMISSION" linked to and summarized by John Gruber. (May 21, 2020.)
 
John's not some conspiracy theorist. He's a respected tech blogger linking to various respectable sources of information.
 
But I read that surgical masks don't help, as they clearly don't filter out COVID-19 particles.

Multiple sources explain why you should wear a surgical mask when out and about. Here's one: Nicole Hernandez from KREM-TV (May 19, 2020): "a surgical mask can protect surrounding people from the respiratory emissions of the person who wears it. [...] So even if the mask doesn't actually protect the person wearing it from coronavirus, it does help keep that person's droplets from their mouth and nose out of the air. Since that's how COVID-19 can spread, it is ultimately helping reduce the spread."

John Hopkins Department of Environmental Health and Engineering Faculty expert Ana Rule said on April 24 that "[surgical] mask[s] will stop those larger particles from depositing on surfaces and potentially being picked up by the next person that touches that surface, for example at the supermarket."

The implication here is that surgical mask may be an imperfect blocker, but that research is ongoing, and that some research is showing that it does help, and that even before that research, a lot of smart folks suggested it might help and cannot hurt. The data on the upside is growing and the downside is minimal. 

But I read guidance that said you shouldn't wear a mask!

Guidance evolves over time, for multiple reasons. One of those primary reasons is that this is how science works. CDC initially did not suggest masks, but that guidance changed and now they do recommend masks. Why? "But as Ranney pointed out in an interview with CNBC, it’s “part of the process” that leading public health authorities would adapt their thinking based on new information." Christina Farr, CNBC. (May 23, 2020.) 

More from that same CNBC article: "In our culture, we often hold politicians, corporate executives and other leaders accountable for the consistency of their positions. In political debates, candidates will often point out on the debate stage that a rival swung to the left or right over a controversial issue. It suggests a lack of authenticity, or even careerism, and indicates that they can’t be trusted to do what’s right for their constituents.

"[But,] In the scientific world, it’s expected that even the highest-ranking academics will evolve their thinking — and many have done so during this Covid-19 pandemic."

Should you take hydroxychloroquine?

Probably not. It may increase death risk, and COVID-19 benefits not clear. (Reuters via Yahoo, Mary 22, 2020.)

I have friends who take hydroxychloroquine it for lupus, and it's serious stuff. They don't do so lightly, so please don't cause a run on this drug so that it becomes harder to get for people for whom it has actually been prescribed.

"But the president is taking it for COVID-19 prevention" (the president has actually stopped taking it, USA Today, May 24, 2020) as an argument falls down for too many reasons to cover here. Do better. 

"But Hannity says..." Watching Sean Hannity is dangerous and puts you at risk. I am not kidding. Vox: A disturbing new study suggests Sean Hannity’s show helped spread the coronavirus. (Apr 22, 2020.)

What things are risky / not risky to do outside of the home right now?

Andy Larsen from the Salt Lake Tribune excellently summarizes available data. (H/T Megan Carpentier)

I'm going to share the bullet points from the SLT article, but please click through and read the whole thing. These are all direct quotes from the SLT article:

Bars and clubs
    • Dance floors are probably incompatible with social distancing.
    • High-capacity bars and clubs are going to be potential locations of superspreading events.
Buffets
    • Self-serve buffets probably create an unmanageable amount of viral spread.
Buses
    • In closed, small environments, virus transmission can occur throughout a room.
    • Keeping outside ventilation high on buses seems to be a worthwhile goal.=
Choirs
    • Singing appears to significantly raise the likelihood of transmission.
Church
    • Churches can be the site of community-changing superspreading events.
    • High-risk activities like singing and buffets may make church gatherings more dangerous.
Family gatherings
    • Avoid hugging and sharing food, especially while sick.
Grocery stores
    • Constant movement in spacious buildings probably helps prevent exposure to coronavirus droplets.
Gyms
    • Gyms can quickly spread the coronavirus, especially when instructors become infected.
    • High-intensity workouts may be more dangerous than low-intensity workouts, though that’s unclear.
Malls
    • Thanks to high traffic numbers, one mall or large store can infect many people, even though the likelihood of any individual customer being infected is low.
Offices
    • The most dangerous method of transmission in an office is spending a long time near an infected person.
    • Using shared facilities like restrooms with an infected person appears to be less dangerous.
    • Spending a short amount of time with an infected person, like on an elevator ride, is not especially dangerous.
    • Jobs with frequent talking, like call centers, do appear to have elevated risk for superspreading.
Planes
    • Don’t go on a plane with a cough. Everyone should wear a mask.
    • If there is someone with a cough, those viral particles can likely travel more than 6 feet, but probably not throughout the plane.
    • The odds of an outbreak on any individual plane trip are low.
Polling places
    • In-person voting either has a small or neutral impact on coronavirus spread when precautions are taken.
Schools
    • Schools are a significant source of spread for other diseases like influenza, but so far, not the coronavirus. We don’t know why.
    • A individual who has contact with an infected child in a school is unlikely to be infected.
Sports venues and stadiums
    • Getting thousands or tens of thousands of people together in one building can result in community-changing “biological bombs."
    • Sports celebrations (singing, hugging, cheering) could potentially mean more spread.
Here's more on what's safe and not safe as compiled by National Public Radio on May 23rd.

Is it safe to go back to bars and restaurants? My state is open again! Or, I want my state to open soon!

That depends. Do you want to be part of the problem and get sick or transmit the disease to somebody else who could die from it, assuming you yourself don't die from it? No? Then stay home. Why? Because this thing is not under control yet. Washington Post: Study estimates 24 states still have uncontrolled coronavirus spread. (May 22, 2020.)

But most people who died from COVID-19 had other medical complications that contributed to their death, so those people were going to die anyway.

I find that awfully callous to say those other people were just going to die so OK let them die then. And that stance is probably based on bad science. Business Insider: A new analysis of COVID-19 deaths estimates the patients might otherwise have lived much longer — regardless of underlying condition. (May 10, 2020.)

Isn't this just like the flu, isn't all the concern here overblown?

Healthline: Here’s Why COVID-19 Is Much Worse Than the Flu, (May, 2020): "Faust concludes that COVID-19 deaths are actually anywhere from 10 times to 44 times the number of influenza fatalities."

OK, what if that's not true? It isn't false, but setting it aside, Google for examples of peoples' experiences. Shortness of breath, so tired they can't move for days, having to sleep on their stomach, fever, headache, vomiting, and more. Pretend that's flu if you want, but it's the worst flu you've ever gotten. Do you really want to experience something that's like the flu dialed up to 11? And then add back in that increased mortality rate when compared to the flu. Avoid!!

Making me wear a mask is discrimination and I have freedoms and rights!

It's been sad to see some people misuse the ADA to try to argue that they don't have to wear masks and see them claim that the ADA requires that they be let into stores anyway. The law clearly does not say or allow for what they claim. Insider: Anti-mask protesters are trying to commandeer US disability laws to get into stores without face coverings. (May 19, 2020.)

This is all overblown and I'm going to start having dinner parties again.

I truly hope you're smarter than that. But if not, I hope I don't end up reading about you on the "Coronavirus Regret" subreddit in the future. Or on the front page of the NY Times.

You're crazy. We live in a small town and it's not like the big city. Everything here is fine.

I live in Chicago and my wife and I have tons of friends who live in New York. What's happening in NY I surely would not wish on anyone. It's serious business here in Chicago, too. But people in rural areas not taking this thing seriously means that it will affect them eventually. See: Washington post: A deadly ‘checkerboard’: Covid-19’s new surge across rural America. (May 24, 2020.)

I hope none of y'all small town folks know anybody who works in a meat packing plant: Wired: Why Meatpacking Plants Have Become Covid-19 Hot Spots. (May 7, 2020.) 

On the subject of voting

“It comes from a very ancient democracy, you see..."

"You mean, it comes from a world of lizards?"