According to this article – written by a Professor of Health Sciences, a Distinguished Professor of Chemistry, a Professor of Mechanical Engineering and… er… a Research Scientist punching way above his weight – being with a lot of people, in a poorly ventilated space, without face coverings or while singing, shouting and exercising, (or any combination of the above) can result in a higher likelihood of you catching Covid-19.
This isn’t new news, of course. We’ve known all of these things for quite a while, but the authors here have come up with a way of putting a figure on each of the scenarios. They’ve even made a calculator for you to estimate your own risk in doing whatever you are doing, including how long you are doing it for.
But these are just estimates. We can’t put an exact figure on any of this. And we can’t say that being with someone silently, outdoors, with a mask on, in the breeze means that you won’t get Covid. This is a Swiss Cheese Defence, where no one single precaution will prevent transmission completely, but where a combination of efforts can limit your chances of being infected. The more precautions you take, the more likely you are to avoid getting it.
Of course, underpinning all of this is our best weapon: the vaccine. That’s the single thing you can do to protect yourself and your family more than anything else.
This is especially important to understand with the Omicron variant, given that it is so much more infectious than the previous iterations of the virus. And I know that you knew all this already, but there are an increasing number of people who are proclaiming that the pandemic is over, and thus giving up on the measures to stop it, and that is still a bit of a stretch. We’re not there yet.
Keep safe. Avoid klapping gym boet in an overcrowded Crossfit place built in a light industrial unit. Or going to church.
A couple of interesting, somewhat interactive articles about that pesky coronavirus for you today. More specifically, some work that has been done to show you how not to get infected with the damn thing as we struggle to get our lives back on track, and some case studies we can learn from on what went wrong elsewhere.
I should point out that while these are full of good advice, there’s not much that hasn’t been said before as far as the basic rules go. In fact, much of it is based on the fundamentals that I shared here, namely avoid inside spaces, avoid poorly ventilated spaces, avoid crowds, keep your distance, wear a mask and if you must put yourself in those situations, then at least try to avoid prolonging the duration of any of these riskier activities wherever possible.
An office, a restaurant and a bus were the settings for multiple infections that have been studied in detail by health authorities. Their conclusions offer valuable lessons for the de-escalation process.
And yes, they do. But it has to be said that if any of the protagonists in these tales had read that post I wrote 116 days ago (or any of the other literature around managing risk of coronavirus infection, obviously), then these could all have been avoided.
With hindsight, I trust that they can see that there should have been red flags and alarm bells all over the place. e.g.
In a single wing of a call center in Seoul, in South Korea, the risk of infection was multiplied by four key factors: close, prolonged contact between numerous people, in an enclosed space.
But there is some good news as well. If you do find yourself in a situation where you need to be inside with other people, then you can still mitigate the risk of infection by taking some fairly straightforward steps. Let’s look at the example of the bar from this second article. where one individual is having a drink with his mates in the local pub after work on a Friday. Nobody knows (including him) that he has Covid-19.
In this bar, capacity has been reduced to 50%. There are 15 patrons and three members of staff. The windows are closed and there is no mechanical ventilation. In the worst-case scenario, if no measures are taken, 14 of the customers will be infected after four hours.
Yes, that’s everyone in the bar.
If masks are consistently used, the risk of infection falls to eight new cases.
Almost halved. Of course, the most important person here as far as mask wearing goes is our erstwhile infected office worker, but since he doesn’t know that he’s infected and we don’t know if we’re infected, then anyone of us could be him, so wearing a mask could make a huge amount of difference here.
If the premises are ventilated, which can be done with a good air conditioning unit or opening doors and windows, and the time spent in the bar is shortened, there is only the risk that one person will be infected.
No-one wants to spend less time drinking with their mates on a Friday night. After all, that was a truly shitty week and the deal with that shoe company looks like it’s about to fall through. After all that hard work, too. So sure, we need that downtime, but if you really need a whole four hours, then just open a door and a couple of windows. (Or sit outside, of course.)
And you might say that you’ve only reduced the number is real terms by 6 or 13 people, but the fact is that those 6 or 13 people would have gone on to infect x more individuals, who would then have gone on to infect y more and so on. We can’t stop the spread of the virus completely, but we can really slow it down and – moreover – prevent unnecessary infections.
What you do regarding your behaviour (within the laws, rules and regulations, obviously), is completely up to you, but there’s plenty of sense in taking stock of your surroundings and choosing to make small, simple changes to make yourself, your friends, your family and other people a bit safer.
For all that we are learning more every day about this virus and the problems that it causes, we still don’t have a vaccine or a perfect cure. It’s certainly worth protecting yourself as much as possible: especially when the steps you need to take to do so are so very uncomplicated.
Oh – and keep washing those hands. That’s not so hard, either.