November 20, 2020


Science Has Learned So Much About COVID--and the Trump Administration Hasn't Learned Anything at AllWe've come a long way since March, yet our leaders are giving up. (Kiera Butler, 11/20/20, MoJo)

Back in March, we thought: that the virus was transmitted on surfaces like doorknobs, counters, and food packaging.

Now we know: that while the virus can survive on surfaces, it's mostly transmitted through respiratory droplets from breathing, talking, laughing, singing, coughing, and sneezing.

What that means: Most public health experts still emphasize the importance of hand-washing and regular surface cleaning, but they don't recommend wiping down your groceries.

Back in March, we thought: that masks weren't effective in preventing the spread of the virus.

Now we know: that cloth face coverings can protect both the wearer and those around them. One recent University of Washington study estimated that universal mask-wearing could save 130,000 lives by February. Masks may even act as a crude vaccine, exposing wearers to just enough virus to trigger an immune response.

What that means: You can feel pretty safe running to the grocery store, the doctor's office, or other public indoor spaces if you and others are wearing masks. You can minimize your risk of transmitting the virus during a holiday gathering if everyone wears masks and stays outside.

Back in March, we thought: that only people who showed symptoms could transmit the coronavirus.

Now we know: that asymptomatic people can and do spread the virus.

What that means: Health care professionals can now tell patients who have been exposed to someone with the virus to isolate right away, even if they don't feel sick, thereby preventing additional infections. 

Back in March, we thought: that we'd never be able to scale up testing enough to make a difference.

Now we know: that while we still have a long way to go, testing is free, quick, and readily available in many places. Just this week, there was more good news on the testing front: The FDA has authorized the first at-home rapid test for the virus.

What that means: We now have the ability to catch cases early, before the infected person has a chance to spread the virus to many others. The key now is convincing people to be tested and investing in systems to warn people who have been in close contact with those who test positive.  

Back in March, we thought: that air filtration systems might not help limit the spread of the virus.

Now we know: that while they're not enough on their own to protect us, when used correctly and in combination with masks, HEPA filters can help.

What that means: Installing filters can offer an additional layer of protection for essential spaces like hospitals and classrooms.  

Back in March, we thought: that schools would be the main way that the coronavirus spreads.

Now we know: that while school outbreaks do occur, indoor spaces where adults congregate are much more likely to lead to outbreaks. A recent study in the journal Nature found that in urban areas, restaurants, gyms, hotels, cafes, and houses of worship were the source of most superspreader events. Schools, meanwhile, have not seen as many outbreaks as experts initially feared, especially at the elementary level.

What that means: We can prioritize reopening schools with appropriate safety measures--and putting more restrictions on restaurants, bars, gyms, and other adult-centered businesses.  

Posted by at November 20, 2020 12:00 AM