May 12, 2020

Memories are short

The Washington Post and XKCD, my favorite comic, both reminded me today that actually most people are OK with the stay at home orders, wearing masks, and keeping 6 foot distance. It is hard to remember this when we hear about the loud complaints and threats happening. It is easy to forget the positive and focus on the negative, which makes us feel helpless. But more and more, I see that we are not helpless.

The more data we have about transmissions and analyzing outbreaks, the more we understand how to keep us safe and which situations are the riskiest. Risk does boil down to time and proximity. The CDC weekly newsletter called the MMWR (Morbidity and Mortality Report) has a report this week analyzing an outbreak in Mount Vernon, Washington that involved a super spreading event at a choir practice. Some of you may have already heard about it. Out of 61 people at the practice, 53 cases were identified, sadly two people died. What does this mean? Prolonged exposure- they practiced for 2 1/2 hours. Standing closer together, especially indoors and while singing, is risky. Other data shows household contacts and co-workers are higher risk to get infected of someone infected. But knowing these things can help protect us. Tough to think of not singing together for awhile.

This amazing story, about the Asian immigrants in Flushing, New York adopting early use of masks, made a huge difference in its infection rate and deaths compared to its neighbor Corona. This helps me see we are on the right path.

I am so happy to see Alaska and Washington State revving up their public health responses by starting contact tracing. Alaska has already been doing this and it has made a difference. Washington is starting too. This is a big part of the plan to help keep COVID-19 contained. Increasing testing and finding positive cases. If we can then find the contacts and get them tested them and keep them isolated until they pass the danger period of spread, we can make a difference. This is why when the state reopens, restaurants will be required to record the names of people who ate at the restaurants and what times. For the safety of the patrons-they can easily be traced and found, tested, and isolated until safe. Other states are building up armies of trackers. This is public health at its finest and has been used for a hundred years and is proven to work.

These are the tools that can help us get back to a new normal, find the hotspots, and test, trace, and isolate so people can stay safe. The rest of us will still need to continue mask wearing and limiting exposure, but with much less worry.

Wash your hands and cover your nose.

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.