July 16, 2020

Risk assessment

Today I read a story about a small group of people who had done everything right for months- social distancing, masks, hand washing. Then they relaxed. They had a dinner party that lasted indoors for 3 hours without masks, thinking they were safe. Alas, one of the party had been on an airplane earlier, even though she did not have symptoms the day of the party, she did the next. Ultimately all five present in the house at the time of the party got infected. I point this out not to point fingers or blame, but to remind us all that assessing risk is not so easy. We can get too comfortable with the fact we have stayed safe and let our guard down. As we continue on our path to stay safe and healthy, it is good to be reminded of these potential failings.

Journal Watch has a brief report on the extremes we have seen in COVID-19 infections and immune response. Interestingly, those that have mild or no symptoms do not seem to create much of an antibody response. Others that have more symptoms get a much stronger response. Some have such a strong immune reaction that they may get critically ill. New data was published this week that showed an effective treatment for critically ill patients that actually blocks the overactive immune response. These data will help guide the vaccine response as well. As for me, I found another report that there is no increased risk with blood type A after all, despite what is in this Journal Watch report. Now I need to find that link. Found it. Whew! It never quite made sense to me anyway. But with such a young virus that behaves in ways we have never seen before, hypotheses are born and die regularly.

Mask wearing continues to be controversial despite more and more data in support of wearing them. Not only did cases in health care workers go down at Mass General Hospital in Boston after universal mask wearing was implemented, more data shows that there are zero confirmed cases in the St. Louis area related to the two hairdressers that exposed clients. Shocking then to hear that the Governor of hard-hit Georgia has banned local governments from enacting face mask requirements. This again is playing politics with peoples lives. Yes, many people are protesting wearing masks, but the truth and data show that the majority of people are following the recommendations. It is the vocal minority that put the rest of us in danger.

An outcry rose up about data reporting from the CDC- the data on hospitalizations and their capacity disappeared from the CDC website. By the end of today, the data was posted again due to the outcry. Good work from people shining a light on those dirty and dangerous tricks. People rely on access to this data to understand the risks in their areas.

So, just like we need to stay vigilant about our own regimens to prevent COVID-19, we need to stay vigilant and pay attention and shine a light on keeping our fellow citizens safe.

Wash your hands, cover your nose, keep safe six, and go for a walk. It can soothe your soul.

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.

https://www.nytimes.com/2020/06/30/smarter-living/why-youre-probably-not-so-great-at-risk-assessment.html

https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/health/how-a-small-birthday-lunch-in-tacoma-became-a-coronavirus-cluster/

https://www.jwatch.org/na51874/2020/07/08/studies-extremes-covid-19

https://www.nytimes.com/2020/07/15/science/coronavirus-blood-type.html

https://academic.oup.com/cid/article/doi/10.1093/cid/ciaa954/5870306

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/07/200715111449.htm

https://www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2020/p0714-americans-to-wear-masks.html

https://talkingpointsmemo.com/news/georgia-governor-explicitly-bans-local-mask-mandates-in-new-executive-order

https://www.cnn.com/2020/07/16/health/hhs-cdc-coronavirus-data-website/index.html

https://www.washingtonpost.com/health/2020/07/16/coronavirus-hospitalization-data-outcry/