June 24, 2020

Blinders are on

Sometimes it is hard to choose what to write about, but tonight I am fascinated by this story about hummingbirds and their ultraviolet world that we never see. It is such a reminder about the blinders we all have on that keeps us stuck in a colorblind world, and how much more we have to learn and understand.

Otherwise, it is a dreary day of news of rising infections in several states, particularly in ones that have the combination of re-opening before their R0 (R naught) was below 1.0 and less mask wearing. The R0 is the number of infections that each positive patient transmits. The public health goal is to have it be below 1.0 to avoid spikes. You can look at the R0’s for each state over time on this website. From the rise and fall of the R0 in New York and states with initial outbreaks to the rise in most other states with the highest R0 in Nevada at 1.49. Obviously, the virus is not fading away anytime soon.

There are interesting clues to what are the riskiest situations and which are safer. We know infections are rising more quickly in younger people now. Mostly due to parties and bars and indoor activities, especially when masks aren’t worn. At the same time, a spike in infections has not been found from all of the Black Lives Matter protests at the end of May and first of June. Surprising, but mask wearing and being outdoors seemed to have been protective. The concept of at least 70% of people wearing masks really cutting down on infections seems to hold true, especially with being outdoors. A relief for many.

And when there is an active health department that can actually do contact tracing and isolating, a hot spot can be contained like this one in Texas of 60 students who caught COVID-19 from a Spring Break Trip to Mexico. I am disheartened and frustrated when I hear about health departments being targeted by people who blame the messenger. This inability to do contact tracing hurts the containment efforts. At the same time, the hostility and misinformation about the effectiveness of masks, and our leader’s inability to wear masks as a role model, will cause the virus to continue to spread. This is sad and frustrating. Lives will be lost and the economy may be shut down again. Masks are an effective tool to help open the economy and protect lives.

This says to me we continue on our path of mask wearing, physical distancing, and being outdoors when we visit with others. Hand washing adds protection too, but be aware of potentially toxic hand sanitizers that have methanol in it. As if we need anything else to worry about.

Knowledge is power and keeping up with the data and new insights will help keep us healthy, but I am sad to not see those extra shades of ultraviolet.

Wash your hands, cover your nose, keep safe six. And spend time outdoors!

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.