June 2, 2020

Superspreaders

Ready or not, here we come. Society is opening up again, some spots more than ready and others opening faster than planned. Lots of variables right now. Lots of exposures are happening. Protests, people choosing or refusing to wear masks, people congregating again for parties, at restaurants, and churches. The next few weeks will teach us how well masks work. Some fear a rebound or spread to new areas.

Beware of super spreader events. One study shows that 20% of infections count for 80% of transmissions. I have talked about the R0 (R naught) that is the average number of infections that occur from each infection. We think the actual average for SARS-CoV-2 is about 2, public health officials want it less than 1. We have done that by sheltering in place. Many states are below that and some states above. The concept of the super spreader is the dispersion factor or “k” factor (and yes my mathematician father would say "everything can be made into an equation”). The dispersion factor is the number of cases that actually transmit to others. This is a variable that matters. Some people with COVID-19 don’t infect anyone, others infect many, especially if they go to a larger event, like a wedding, choir practice, church service, or have a long dinner in a restaurant. Time will tell soon if the hairdressers in Springfield, Missouri transmitted to several or few. We should have some data in the next week. The k factor is the reason most public health officials recommend avoiding larger gatherings, especially if indoors and lasting longer than 10-15 minutes. And even more so, if people aren’t wearing masks. I don’t want to be near a superspreader or, worse, be a superspreader. Not to judge- just the guilt I would feel.

I know not everyone lives where people wear masks. Many of us live in areas where there just haven’t been that many cases, so citizens feel less exposed and opt out. Remember that wearing a mask is just one of the tools in your toolkit to protect yourself from infection. You wear the mask to protect them and they wear the mask to protect you. This is not about fear- it is about courtesy. If you live in a community where people don’t wear masks in stores, then avoid those places, if possible. If not, go as early in the day as possible, especially if you are vulnerable, due to age or medical conditions. Wash your hands, wear your mask, keep 6 feet away- all these can protect you. But also remember that time is a factor too, so if someone walks by you and keeps going, don’t worry.

These realities are sad for many of us who meet up every summer for music and dance camps, family reunions, and weddings, and so many more events that have been cancelled. But keep in mind that we really are making progress with understanding this 6 month old virus. I feel much more confident in keeping myself and my family and friends safe by following these guidelines. I ache to do the things I had planned this year, but am grateful to feel less fear. I also know that the hospitals are doing a better job of recognizing and caring for people that get very ill.

And yes, there is still so much we do not know about COVID-19. And lots of ethical scientists and doctors are working hard to understand more.

Wash your hands, cover your nose. Be kind.

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.

Bonus poem below the links.

https://www.nytimes.com/2020/06/02/opinion/coronavirus-superspreaders.html

https://rt.live/

https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2020/05/why-do-some-covid-19-patients-infect-many-others-whereas-most-don-t-spread-virus-all

https://www.seattletimes.com/nation-world/whos-wearing-a-mask-women-democrats-and-city-dwellers/

https://www.nytimes.com/article/coronavirus-facts-history.html

https://www.nytimes.com/2020/06/01/health/coronavirus-mysteries.html

https://www.nytimes.com/2020/06/02/world/live-coronavirus.html

Democracy will not come

Today, this year

Not ever

Through compromises and fear.

I have as much right

As the other fellow has

To stand

On my two feet

And own the land.

I tire of hearing people say,

“Let things take their course.”

“Tomorrow is another day.”

I do not need my freedom when I’m dead.

I cannot live on tomorrow’s bread.

Freedom

Is a strong seed

Planted

In a great need.

I live here, too.

I want freedom

Just as you.

- Langston Hughes