What I Learned From a Meeting With A COVID Epidemic Researcher:
On July 27th 2020, our AmSAT American Alexander organization hosted an esteemed epidemic researcher, Dr. Turner Osler from University of Vermont, for a 1.5 hour presentation, Q&A, and myth-busting gathering meant for Alexander teachers who are considering getting back into teaching or must teach due to schools and universities opening around the US. Here is what I learned straight from the horses mouth. Dr. Osler’s work has been in the epidemiology of trauma, but converted his research to the epidemiology of COVID recently. He is also an Emeritus Professor of University of Vermont in Burlington with over 300 peer-reviewed articles including statistics and analytics of epidemiology. Here is his website. https://qor360.com/blog/
FACTS I LEARNED:
1.) COVID-19 is incubated in the nose and lungs. Therefore, it is spread via the respiratory system. The main concern is breathing the air of an asymptomatic person by close proximity (with or without a mask) or by being in the same room without a lot of ventilation (no walls is best.) It is unlikely that someone would get infected by contact surfaces because in touching a surface you will get a smaller amount of virus on your finger and by wiping your eye you would get even less virus into your system, and our eyes have their own protective defenses (as do many of our organs.) Although they cannot research exactly how much viral load is required for a successful infection (it would be a morally unethical practice,) they know that it would have to be more than just, say, one virus particle.
2.) You cannot get COVID by mosquitos (or at least they’ve seen no correlation) since it is a respiratory virus. You also cannot get it by sweat or urine because those fluids are sterile. They can see virus in feces and he would like to test sewers of cities to get an idea of how much of the population really has the virus. They cannot say too much about whether we’re getting the virus from feces.
3.) COVID-19 is unlike any virus they’ve ever seen. It is true that one is most likely to get the virus from an infected person who is showing no symptoms for the first week. The virus literally cuts the early immune response, therefore the virus sheds in silence for about a week before the person shows any signs of illness. Since viral shedding occurs from 7-10 days of first getting infected, that means this is the same period of time that people are not yet showing symptoms, thereby making it impossible to be forewarned. In SARS-1 the early immune response made the infection obvious and those people were quarantined, therefore it was easy to control. This is why COVID has caused a pandemic rather than an epidemic.
4.) COVID-19 is not just the flu. COVID is known to not only attack the respiratory system but any organ in the body for no particular reason even in healthy, young individuals to the point of organ failure. He advised us that we do not want to get this virus, period. No matter what our age, healthy or otherwise. I do not want to go into the details of the stories..Personally, there are all kinds of articles you can read if you feel inclined to these stories and today I found an article with new surveys that 35% of people interviewed by the CDC with COVID had not recovered and 20% of them, ages 18-34, had a prolonged illness. This compares to 90% of people who get the flu fully recover within a short time span. Here’s that article.
5.) The vaccine is truthfully about one year away. Just today, they had finished a successful Phase 2 of the trials and were starting phase 3. The news you hear about having a vaccine by October or November is false and politically driven. In order for a vaccine to be given to all people which he says this vaccine will, there must not be over about 1% of people who have adverse reactions so they have to “get it right” and take their time with it. There are people willingly getting infected by COVID to do their trials. The countries already doing mass vaccinations are not being so cautious. The vaccinations that the US are testing are “parts” of the virus not the live living tissue virus, therefore there is no risk of getting the virus from a vaccinated person if you are not vaccinated.
6.) Talking and singing project the most virus especially consonant sounds like TE and CL. In these situations, there is more virus in the air and reaching farther distances. Silent, quiet breathing is the most safe for navigating around people in general but you still need to be wearing a mask with 6 ft. of distance. Yes, someone did get the virus by talking to a neighbor when outdoors for a prolonged conversation. He recommends masks when outdoors and 6 ft. distance between.
To all of our nuanced questions about giving in-person lessons with face shields, thermometers, outdoors but close proximity, air filtration machines, etc, it was concluded that no wearing of face shields or masks or HEPA filters would be effective as long as we are indoors and sharing the same air or in close proximity. The masks do help in preventing larger water droplets but not the virus itself if you will be sharing space for a longer time say 15-30 minutes. There needs to be outdoor air and 6 feet of space with masks to dilute the virus particles from respiration. He said there seemed to be no problem with touching people while practicing good hand washing guidelines except for the breathing proximity that is necessary for touching.
ADVICE HE GAVE:
1) Follow guidelines to not get COVID until the vaccine is out in about a year.
2) Be patient and get comfortable with these guidelines. There will be more epidemics in the future.
3) You are safe around others when you are outdoors with air flow, wearing masks, with 6 feet of distance between people. Make sure the mask fits and there are no holes at the bridge of the nose. He uses a blue shop towel handmade mask as shown below.
4) Do your best to get your school outdoors or even better teach online.