Day 92 – Some good advice and some nice visuals

Two things to share with you today: one is some good advice and the other is some nice visuals.
You’d probably guessed that from the title of the post though.

First up, a nice, practical piece from the Daily Maverick, written in language we can all understand.

We cannot be saved by government policy alone – the things we can all do are what will save South African lives. And those things are pretty simple.

Our Summary:

Do everything possible outdoors;
Open windows;
Wear masks;
Keep at least one metre distance (two metres is better) from people
Avoid crowded spaces
Be quick

It’s good stuff, it’s easy to read, and each point is backed up by (layman’s) scientific reasoning.

My one gripe is the little contradiction that creeps in under the “No Shaming” heading:

There is no need to shout at people exercising outdoors without a mask but at a distance, or in the park with their family; they are not going to infect you.

Sure, I wasn’t going to shout at them. But wearing a mask outdoors costs no time, money or effort and reduces the risk of transmitting the virus from “low” to effectively “nil”. So why make any exception at all: why not just wear the damn mask like the law and any decent sense of morality says you should?

It’s not hard.

And then these visuals of “How the Virus Won” from the NY Times. (This link spotted first via @JacquesR, and then in about four other places I frequent very shortly afterwards.) Yes, you need to register (free), but it’s very interesting and probably worth it.

Some basic graphics, some good data – again explained in layman’s terms, the odd political quote (only the ones where the politicians in question got it horribly wrong – hindsight is 2020 – but why on earth would you want to go there ever again?).

It regularly looks horribly like one of the 1960s graphics you get where some killer plague spreads across the world.

Strange that.

 

Those are your interesting links for Friday. Have a nice day.
Wear a mask. Don’t be in America.

Day 56 – Superspreading

Not much here today, but I did enjoy the back-to-basics lessons available in this Sciencemag article.

It’s all about how certain individuals and certain situations are more likely to spread the virus than others. And while we’re not 100% sure of the reason for some people spread more virus than others:

Some people shed far more virus, and for a longer period of time, than others, perhaps because of differences in their immune system or the distribution of virus receptors in their body. A 2019 study of healthy people showed some breathe out many more particles than others when they talk… People’s behaviour also plays a role. Having many social contacts or not washing your hands makes you more likely to pass on the virus.

…it’s very much a reason that the virus gets passed on more quickly in some situations. These people don’t know they’re doing it and they don’t have a big red flashing light above their heads, but with quotes like:

“Probably about 10% of cases lead to 80% of the spread”

…if you’re not wearing a mask while you’re out and about, you’re very much part of the problem.

Especially if you are exercising. Surprise, surprise, the more energetic your breathing, the more virus you expel. So runners are the ones who are more likely to be spewing clouds of virus out. So those runners who are “unable” to cover their faces while they run because “it’s not very comfy” are potentially putting a lot of other people at risk.

Nice. Thanks, you precious, selfish twats.

As I shared just yesterday, the Washington Post described three superspreading events as being one reason why Cape Town has so many cases of Covid-19 at the moment. So there’s so much local relevance here.

But perhaps my favourite “OMG, that’s so obvious” moment was the meat-packing plant connection. Meat-packing plants are the perfect place for respiratory viruses for two reasons:
Firstly, they are cool (temperature-wise, rather than in trendiness), meaning that virus particles remain intact – and infectious – for longer, and
Secondly, because the machinery in the plants is loud and so workers have to talk more loudly to be heard. Louder voice (shouting, singing, deep breathing, panting) means you’re more likely to expel virus.

Amazingly simple. Amazingly obvious.
I love that someone actually had the sense to take it back that far.

Anyway, like I said: good article.
Wear a mask. Be lekker.

Vincent > Bill

Spotted on social media ad nauseum, lots of stuff like this:

So what?

Vincent CC Cheng et al. not only told us about “the Corona virus” [sic] back in 2007:

(that was ahead even of the MERS outbreak of 2012), they even told us exactly why this 2019/20 pandemic was going to happen:

It’s an informative and enlightening read, if you have the time.

The fact is that despite his standing, his fame and his amazing charity work, it seems that no-one batted an earlobe at Bill. And so why on earth would anyone have been bothered with what Vincent had to say?

We’re hearing so much about the changes in attitude that this pandemic is having and going to have in the future, but no-one listened to the experts back in 2007 – it’s only now that their (actually fairly obvious, when you read the evidence) predictions have come to pass that we’re giving them the time of day.

And even then, in this case, it seems like it’s only me that’s doing it.

Shouting about Bill will do no good now. No-one cared what he was saying back in 2015, false hero-worship of a false idol just because someone dug out an aging Ted talk and popped it on your Facebook isn’t going to stop any pandemic. Bill didn’t know about Coronaviruses; Bill was relaying the experts views to the general public.

The public chose not to listen.

Over in the UK, laboratory scientists and healthcare workers are being offered free coffees, cheaper food, special opening hours at supermarkets and numerous other benefits in the UK right now. And I think that’s great. They’re at the sharp end when it comes to this sort of thing. But then, they’ve always been at the sharp end. Underappreciated by a succession of governments – of every colour – and the general public for years and years, they’re suddenly the heroes of the hour. Sure: this is a biggie. And yet they’ve been putting their lives on the line in the face of some properly horrible diseases (CJD, Ebola, Anthrax, TB) for decades. So thanks for noticing now, but maybe have a sit down and a quick review of your previous thoughts and feelings on the people working in the healthcare sector when there was no global pandemic as well.

Once all this is over (the outbreak, that is); once we have the vaccine and some degree of herd immunity; once we’re returning to something like normal life, will you listen the next time Vincent or Bill has something to say?

I’m guessing not.

Precautions

Yeah. It’s another post about you-know-what. The Lord Voldemort of infectious diseases. Sorry. But then, when we get through all of this, it’ll be good to look back at the good and the bad of how we tried to deal with it, and that will surely stand us all in good stead for the next global pandemic.

South Africa is taking precautions. Today is the last day of school in SA for (at least) the next 2½ weeks. Dodgeball is cancelled. Music lessons have stopped. Scouts has been stopped. The play we were due to go and see on Saturday is off.

And my inbox is full of local companies telling me how they are adapting to the crisis. Let’s have a look at what they’re doing.

YES! WE ARE OPEN! say Getwine:

At the moment, GETWINE’s e-commerce together with our three “walk-in” outlets will remain open for business but we are continuously monitoring the situation.
Online shopping remains the safest way to get your wine. Customers can be assured that we have taken all possible steps to ensure that you have a safe and enjoyable online or shopfront experience.

Mildly concerning that they’ve taken “all possible steps”, but still admit that online shopping is safer. But they’re probably right and the alternative is there if you want/don’t want to take risks.

Oishi Sushi are:

closely monitoring local and international guidelines with regards to Coronavirus (COVID-19)

and:

are taking increased precautions by reinforcing the following health and hygiene protocols within all of our delivery kitchens:
  • Increasing the frequency of hand-washing and hand-sanitization
  • Replacing our existing hand sanitizer dispensers with touch-free dispensers
  • Increasing the frequency of cleaning all kitchen surfaces
  • Increasing the frequency of food safety audits
On the delivery side of things, we will be introducing the option of a no-contact drop-off service that allows customers to prepay via SnapScan or Zapper, and to add drop-off instructions in the comments section on the checkout page (e.g. leave outside door).

And even my firewood and braaiwood supplier sent details of what they’re doing:

Wow. And this for wood which I am literally going to burn? (Burning renders the virus inactive, by the way.)

Wine, food and wood and the three secondary basic human needs after wi-fi, Castle Milk Stout and toilet roll, and I’m hopeful that with the primary three already in place Chez 6000… and the secondary three safely available to us, we’ll be able to get through the difficult times ahead.

Now wash your hands.

 

UPDATE: Also in touch today…
My gym: “the government suggests that we should close, but we’re not going to (yet).”
My local hiking/camping/outdoor pursuits store: “go outside, enjoy the time with your family, buy our stuff online.”
My bank: “we’re being really careful – fewer meetings. Also be really careful.”
My local supermarket: “we’re wrapping things properly in our bakery section. There’s hand sanitiser everywhere (except on the shelves).”
My favoured e-hailing service: “we’re consulting with an epidemiologist to make sure our efforts as a company are grounded in medical advice.” [Woah!]

Advice

There’s more to this pandemic than just virology and epidemiology.

There are the huge economic consequences, the social and psychological effects of worry, panic and a future unknown. And then there is the sheer logistical challenge of just trying to live your daily life (or something close to it), educating your kids, buying your food, looking after your family.

I know what’s going on with the science stuff, but the rest of it is as new to me as the next guy (a safe social distance from me) on the street.

The situation is grave, especially in SA given our existing problems of unemployment, poverty, crumbling economy and social division, but I have some hope.  I’m noticing a willingness among the majority to unite and try and get through this. And without wanting to be all doe-eyed and sentimental, things really do work on the odd occasions when this country pulls together.

There will always be the idiots out there who will not get involved or even try to derail these processes, but there are definitely the first signs of cooperation and unity beginning to show through.

I’m doing my bit, trying to help coordinate schoolwork for the shutdown, offering assistance to neighbours and volunteering my (surprisingly still quite professional) services where appropriate.

The rest of the time, I’m washing my hands, watching funny TV (because argh! no sport…), getting some fresh air and trying to keep fit and healthy. We will get through this. It’s going to be difficult and it’s going to be ugly, but if we do choose to look after ourselves and each other, we will prevail.

Stay safe, stay sensible. And now… wash your hands.