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The Coronavirus is in the air: That means.

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Photo illustration from slate. Photo by Photo illustration from slate. Photo by Andrey Zhuravlev / iStock / Getty Images Plus.

In the United States, COVID-19 is spreading like wildfire. At the same time, the research community is learning more and more about how the coronavirus is passed from person to person. There are many nuances, and we still don’t know everything about it. But we are in an emergency, and we have manageable facts. To help get through the noise, the public should be warned, clearly, and often: The coronavirus is in the air.

Researchers and medical practitioners have spent months pressing on the public health establishment to evolve on messages about the ways COVID-19 spreads. At first, many experts thought the virus spreads mainly through large drops, such as those that fly out of your mouth and fall to the ground in a few feet, particularly when you cough. It then became clear that people without coughing or other symptoms could – and in many, many cases, do – spread the virus as well. In an April 1 letter to the White House, the National Academy of Sciences raised concerns about the risk of coronavirus spreading through small droplets, which can accumulate around us as we speak, and even how we breathe normally. Two days later, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended people be able to wear “face coatings” on their mouths and noses. In early July, 239 scientists asked the World Health Organization to finally recognize the risk of airborne COVID-19 transmission. The WHO now recognizes that coronavirus-carrying droplets may remain suspended in the air in crowded indoor spaces, but its messages tend to lead to the risk of COVID-19 spreading into the air. as a reflection. For example, a WHO Q&A page gives the impression that if we all stay about 3 feet apart, the distance they recommend, and if we take care to wash our hands, everything will be OK.

This will not be. The updated message that people need to reach is: In addition to the visible routes of transmission such as getting tight, or touching your face and then your face, COVID-19 can spread through the air we breathe, particularly inside. Or more concisely: The coronavirus is in the air. Repeat. Tell your friends and family. We should listen to it on the radio and podcasts, watching it on PSAs on TV and YouTube. It should be written on a few signs that we need to get through by making our way into the grocery stores. While we don’t have to worry about coronavirus infectious clouds wandering from an open beach – the outside is pretty safe, if you can stay away – we need to be really worried about encountering the virus anywhere. there are people in poorly ventilated spaces, because the coronavirus is, in fact, in the air. The message needs to be cut off from the noise of a world that produces about 350,000 tweets per minute, in which a person’s knowledge of the pandemic varies according to their preferred news source, and where a full third of the Americans are not consistently wearing surface coatings in stores. and other businesses.

A big part of the challenges around messaging can be that the word “in the air” implies different things for specialists in different disciplines. In aerosol science, “airborne” can describe particles that move on air currents. In medicine, “in the air” evokes a set of specific disease control measures appropriate for patients with tuberculosis or chickenpox, such as the isolation of patients in special rooms with negative air pressure. As a scientist, I can relate to the specialized nature of this term, but as part of the general public who wants to avoid COVID-19, it doesn’t matter much if there is one virus that can be infectious in the air for about 30 minutes. (which is the estimate for SARS-CoV-2), and another virus that can be infectious in the air for two hours (the case for measles virus), are both described in the air. That’s a matter of degree. What is important to me is that if I am in the same room as a person infected with COVID-19 and they sing, shout, talk, or even just breathe, there are SARS-CoV-2 viral particles carried by drops. small drifting in the air that could potentially infect me. That seems to be true even if I’m over six feet away if I’m stuck in a room for a while unventilated – say, a bar for the dive. I am more likely to be worried about all this if I have to play in my head that the coronavirus is in the air.

“The coronavirus is in the air” – this statement is hampered. It communicates that something harmful may be present, even when it cannot be seen with the naked eye, or felt on the skin. Many people have already heard the expression “it’s in the air” in the context of Outbreak, the 1995 thriller Dustin Hoffman (and the fifth most popular movie on Netflix in March!). They already associate it with a life-threatening disease. A concise warning gives itself to repetition, a key tactic to get an idea. Most importantly, “airborne coronavirus” provides direct support for precautionary measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19, such as keeping at least six feet away from people who are not in your home, wearing a face mask over your nose and mouth when in public, spend the minimum amount of time in indoor spaces that are not in your home, and improve ventilation in the building . (Surface transmission may be less common, but, yes, it’s important to wash your hands with soap and water.) If you’re going to be indoors for a long time with people from a variety of homes, that is, at school – Care should be taken to ensure that the chance of someone with an infection is very low.

There is no time to waste. COVID-19 has already killed more than 674,000 people, including more than 152,000 Americans. Faults in government, the private sector, international bodies, and the other line were beyond the control of many individuals. But experts responding to COVID-19 can control how they communicate with the public. While the scientific and technical nuances of COVID-19 are absolutely critical, the pandemic is a crisis, and now is certainly not the perfect time to be the enemy of a life-saving good statement. Communication with the public should give priority to commitment and clarity in order to make people more likely to adopt effective protective measures to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. Tell me: The coronavirus is in the air. The coronavirus is in the air. The coronavirus is in the air.

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