Charles Hammond

Charles Hammond

Kheprw Institute has launched CovidGram, a weekly digest of news and practical advice related to COVID-19. CovidGram scans Covid news from worldwide sources for information to help the skeptical media consumer navigate important decisions about responsible public health behavior and personal disease risk.

All of us, even the experts, need help understanding what is going on with Covid because news about the coronavirus pandemic is constantly shifting. The tug-of-war between politicians trying to stay in office and news sources trying to lure readers and advertisers makes the already unpredictable news from research scientists and drug makers even more difficult to follow.

CovidGram uses scientific validity as the standard for selecting and analyzing articles. No publication is immune to political influence and publications often considered too political sometimes provide valuable perspectives. CovidGram judges each article on its own merit regardless of its publication source.

CovidGram is a project of Kheprw Institute’s continuing efforts to empower communities on the ground level. Sample news summaries from recent issues are provided below.

I. Comparative risk of daily activities

      What is the Covid infection risk of shopping for food or clothing?

      How risky is eating at a restaurant?

Summary. In an attempt to identify the most common sources of coronavirus exposure, a new CDC study compared the day-to-day activities of about 150 Covid positive people with a comparable number of Covid-negative people over a two-week period. Activity categories included shopping, going to an office, salon, restaurant, a friend’s home, gym or using public transportation. One activity stood out above the others. Twice as many Covid-positive people listed dining at a restaurant as an activity, implicating restaurants as possible sources of exposure.

Even more conclusive was contact tracing data collected by the State of Louisiana before August, which identified restaurants as the source of 38 Covid outbreaks. Louisiana also found bars were comparable to restaurants in exposing people to the virus, considerably more risky than retail settings or office spaces.

The CDC study concluded that one likely reason for more exposures in restaurants is that diners had to remove their masks to eat. But loud talking also sheds high amounts of virus.

Takeaways. To minimize exposure to coronavirus, avoid eating in restaurants, especially indoor dining. Now that mask wearing in public is mandatory in Indiana, shopping for groceries and other essentials is much safer than visiting restaurants or bars, but it still carries some risk.

II. Aerosol (persistent airborne) transmission of coronavirus

      What precautions can I take to avoid exposure to virus particles in aerosol?

      Can I catch Covid from walking 6 feet behind an infected person or standing downwind of infected people because the virus particles they are breathing out remain suspended in the air (in aerosol)?

Summary. A recent peer-reviewed study provided evidence that virus particles remain suspended in the air on microdroplets long after an infected person has shed them through normal breathing and conversation.

Takeaway. Exhaled coronavirus remains suspended in the air for minutes, even hours, so whether you are walking behind someone or simply standing downwind of someone, mask.

III. Preventing personal Covid infection

      What are the best ways to prevent Covid infection short of total isolation?

SummaryWhen distancing is not possible, the New York Times explains how masks provide some protection against inhalation of virus in addition to protecting others from your own exhalations.

An article in The Atlantic this week confirms that virus particles on surfaces pose far less of an infectious threat than airborne virus.

Takeaway. Wear a mask to protect yourself from infection in addition to protecting others. No need to wipe down mail, groceries, etc. — the airborne virus threat is how most Covid infections occur.

 

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