COVID-19 Diary – Day 174

This is going to be a pretty long post, but there’s lots of good info here. Let’s get started!

First up we have a new study on the efficacy of face shields and masks with unfiltered valves. They use lasers to help improve visualization of water vapour. Their conclusions are not super great for either face shields or masks with unfiltered valves. I was particularly interested in the experiment for face shields though, as initially the did a good job of forcing most vapour downwards. Later however the vapour dissipates and moves in a kind of cloud forward and around the person. If we knew how much viral load it took for a person to become infected, we would have a much better idea of how much risk that vapour cloud represented. A helpful article on the study can be found here. The actual study can be found here.

Next up I want to address airflow, and how it can help protect you from catching COVID-19. This is especially for anyone who works in an office environment, or spends time in places with stale air.

The BBC released an article on 5 steps to avoid catching COVID-19 indoors, and it’s all very good advice. I will list their steps here:

  • If it’s stuffy, walk away – When you walk into a room and the air feels stale, something is wrong with the ventilation. Open a window, open a door, or try to otherwise introduce fresh air flow into the room. If you can’t, limit your time there as much as possible.
  • Look up at the air conditioning – If the air conditioner only recirculates the air, and doesn’t have a source to bring in fresh air, then limit your time in that space as much as possible.
  • Ask about the ‘fresh air ratio’ – In a modern building where the windows are sealed, how can you get enough fresh air? You’re relying on a ventilation system in which stale air is extracted from the rooms and piped to an air handling unit, often on the roof. Having 100% fresh air is the best, but also the most expensive.
  • Check if your ventilation filters need replacing – A modern ventilation system will have filters but these are not fool-proof, and may not be replaced often enough. In South Korea, a call centre on the 11th floor of an office building saw one person infect more than 90 others. If the filters had been checked more frequently, the presence of the virus might have been spotted sooner.
  • Watch out for drafts – Fresh air is key, but being immediately downwind of a breeze could potentially lead to transmissions, if someone is shedding virus upwind of you. While it is generally believed that the benefits of plentiful fresh air diluting the virus will outweigh any risks involved, it’s also an easy thing to try to avoid prolonged standing downwind of a breeze.

The complete article can be found here, and is well worth the read!

There’s an interesting new theory making waves on the internet right now, and it came from a super computer! You may have already heard of the Bradykinin hypothesis, or seen it mentioned. It’s a theory that could explain the very weird set of possible symptoms and the way COVID-19 attacks the body. I do need to mention here that I am NOT an expert or medical professional in any possible interpretation of the words, and I can not personally verify how possible this theory is, or how likely. It’s mostly something I found very interesting, and plan to keep my eye on as hopefully some experts in the field examine it, and give their opinions. But if the theory is correct, it could mean some possible new treatment options, and hopefully a significant decline in serious cases of COVID-19, or deaths. This article explains the theory well, give it a look if you would like to know more!

If you’ve looked at the comment section of just about any news post about COVID-19 you’ve probably see several people claiming impossibly low mortality rates, and claiming that the virus isn’t very dangerous because the death rate is low. Putting aside the bad math involved, I would like to address the belief that if you don’t die from COVID-19, that you’ll be fine. The following article details just one person’s account, but it isn’t hard to find many more just like it. For this woman, 6 months later she is still struggling to catch her breath from phone calls or going on walks, and it wasn’t long ago she could barely get out of bed. The long term damage and fatigue that COVID-19 causes is real, and a serious threat to even the healthiest people’s long term living conditions. You can read about it here.

It’s been no secret that many businesses have been hit very hard by COVID-19, and restaurants are among some of the hardest hit. What you may not know is that an estimated 60% of Canadian restaurants are expected to shut down permanently over the next 3 months. The numbers are really looking that bad. So if you are able to, perhaps consider ordering take out from that place you like, I can assure you they will appreciate the business more than you thank! You can read more on this issue here.

And now lets talk about the schools reopening… this is a very heated topic with a lot of strong emotions behind it. So I will say that I don’t have any children, nor am I attending school. I have no personal stake in the school situation beyond a general concern for increasing new infections, and generally not wanting people to get sick and die. I can not tell you to feel safe, or unsafe when it comes to schools, I am only hoping to represent what I believe to be the truth based on the information I can find. With that preamble out of the way, let’s dig in.

The Daily Hive has an article on what one school has setup for their reopening, complete with pictures of signs advising 2 metre distancing, hand washing sinks, outdoor spaces, and how their tables/workspaces will be setup, and how their school supplies are sorted and stored.

I’ve attached pictures of the last two items mentioned above, because I think they’re worth drawing attention to. The are in general 2 seats per table, with the students setup to face each other. With no barriers or any other protection methods obvious from the photo. The school supplies are also sorted in a way that seems to imply likely cross contamination. You can see the rest of the photos and read about how else this school is preparing here.

But this is also just one school out of a very large amount of schools spread across many different districts. So let’s look at one teacher’s written thoughts on what their school is doing, and what their school is expecting of them. Here are some notable quotes:

  • “Many of us work in classes without proper ventilation. My own classroom has only ONE WINDOW and 2 small heating vents. My class is not a sufficient size to distance 22 Grade 1 students, but gosh darn have I tried my best with what I have.”
  • “We were informed just yesterday that we will likely be responsible for both sides of the hybrid model. Despite information that indicated new district teachers would be hired in Vancouver to support the “transitional online learning” model, we were informed yesterday that this is being reneged on”
  • “Considerable money has been pledged to make schools safer, but most of it is as-yet unallocated. So far, all I have seen is a few sanitizing stations, extra spray bottles of cleaner in our classroom, and posters around the school. I have heard we are receiving reusable masks, but I have not seen these yet at our school site. No new custodial staff have been hired at our school site.”
  • “No barriers have been provided, though I have seen many images of teachers who pay out of pocket to create some safe distancing measures.”

Again, this is just one school, and one representation of it. You can read the entire post here.

Between the two views we’ve seen into schools, it is starting to feel like there may be some serious disconnect between what Dr. Bonnie Henry is saying, and what the School Districts themselves are doing. We know the funding is there to support the schools and teachers, but it doesn’t seem to be going where it needs to be. It isn’t fair or realistic to expect teachers to spend their own money to cover the gaps the school district isn’t handling. I think parents are owed some answers.

That’s everything for today, stay safe everyone!

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