December 22, 2020

light effect

Today in Seattle the sun shone and I got out for a walk, a welcome gift after yesterday. The solstice yesterday was truly the darkest day of the year with wild weather. Rainy and dark with little light, the buildings downtown were covered in clouds all day. And then the weather got really strange. At the end of our hall we have a grand view south towards Mt. Rainier, but all my co-workers who gathered at the window couldn’t see Rainier. They were watching a BMW sports car stuck in the water flooding the I-5 off ramp. The water came up over its head lights, cars backing up behind, not wanting to enter the flood. The street below the ramp was also flooded. A patient called to stay she was stuck in the off ramp and would be late, a WSDOT truck plowed through the water reaching the car, co-workers filmed it on their phones. The Washington State Department of Transportation worker got out of his truck and hooked the car up to tow it out of the flood. Then, hero like, the WSDOT worker went back into the waist deep water with a rake and a snake, finding the blocked drain, opening it up and emptying the flood. Talk about dedication. I am in awe.

More light will be returning daily which will help our mess with COVID-19. New data shows that the SARS-CoV-2 virus survives better as the temperature falls. Higher temperatures break down the virus’ structure. This is supported by the increasing number of infections as the seasons changed, especially indoors at room temperature. Hotter weather is safer outdoors and it seems cooler weather is riskier. This data is a reminder to still wear masks and use distancing, wash your hands, when visiting outdoors in cooler weather. Ventilation helps.

Along with the temperature sensitivity, SARS-CoV-2 is affected by UV radiation. It seems to spread less as UV radiation increases. and spreads easier as the days shorten and the amount of light decreases. Last spring this was unclear but scientists guessed the virus would spread more in the winter based on influenza models. And that is what seems to have happened. The effect of UV radiation also supports why being outdoors is safer, although not the only reason. The analysis shows that social distancing, masking, and other factors actually made a bigger difference than the amount of natural UV light.

But there is evidence showing that using UV emitting LED lights can kill the virus. Using a wave length of 285 nanometers, the virus can be killed in 30 seconds. The hope is that they can be used in ventilation systems, water systems, and more. Not safe for home use yet due to radiation exposure, but I am sure someone is working on a system to sell.

These are interesting tidbits to know because they support visiting outdoors and not indoors. Social distancing works, but not in an enclosed space. Christmas and New Years are coming, other holidays as well. Zoom parties are the safest. The vaccine is coming and we all want to be together next year.

Wash your hands, cover your nose, keep safe six, outdoors if you can, if you can’t then Face Time.

And finally, my caveat is that this is my experience and my opinions, which are subject to change as more information is available, and not related to the organization I work for. Thanks for reading.