A few days ago, a Chattanooga doctor who I’ve known for 13 years sent a video to me that changed my understanding of COVID-19 and how it works.
Dr. Cable has been practicing in Chattanooga for decades. He’s near retirement now, but since I’ve known him, I’ve found him to be intelligent, measured and insightful and he’s never stopped studying.
The video titled “Coronavirus: The Solution is Becoming Clear” is produced by Chris Martenson and was published on the YouTube channel “Peak Prosperity” on Sunday. You’ll find a link to the video at the end of this article.
Some of you know me as having written for Chattanoogan.com covering Bonnaroo and other music events from 2007 to 2016. Writing about music doesn’t qualify me to talk about the coronavirus but in the past 25 years, I worked for the Chattanooga Heart Institute and two very large hospitals. At Memorial Hospital I helped perform a monumental system upgrade and that role took me into almost every department in that organization.
While I’m not a medical professional of any sort, I am a writer and researcher. The video Dr.
Cable shared with me was so eye opening that it inspired me to write my first article in five years.
During the past two months, we’ve all been subjected to a withering assault of conflicting COVID-19 information coming at us from every direction. Our government and news organizations put out information that’s frequently found to be wrong and sometimes dangerous. Even when you find information that seems credible and relative, it’s easy to question it because a lot of us are either exhausted by it all or suffering from analysis paralysis.
I’ll share the video but I’m going to note my own takeaways here, and throw in a few opinions of my own and what I’ve adopted as my own “Best Practices”. Some of what’s here is derived from articles I’ve researched on my own and the rest are taken from Martenson’s video.
I’m not going to repeat their references, and I’m not going to get super technical. If you want those details, you’ll have to watch the video or read the articles for yourself.
- Coronavirus 2019 or COVID-19 –
1. Despite what a lot of people say and believe COVID-19 is almost certainly Airborne – The video quite convincingly and dramatically called into question the WHO’s supposition that COVID-19 isn’t easily spread through respiration and airborne transmission. It’s been found in the air vents and ductwork of hospitals in China. That fact alone should make anyone pause. They quote an MIT analysis which found that viral droplets expelled in coughs and sneezes can travel in a moist, warm atmosphere at speeds of 33-100 feet per second (22.5 to 68 mph) creating a cloud which can span 23 to 27 feet. The researchers also warn that droplets can stay suspended in the air for hours, moving along airflow patterns imposed by ventilation or climate control systems. Virus particles have already been found in the ventilation systems of hospital rooms of patients with coronavirus, which the team believes could have been carried on “turbulent clouds” of air (Airborne right?)”
2. Most of the people spreading the virus in China were asymptomatic - Taken from data now available from China, “…it was found in a study that 86% of cases were “undocumented”, that is, asymptomatic or had only very mild symptoms. The study also found asymptomatic carriers to be the primary source of the virus’s spread before the restrictions came in. Even though these people were only 55% as contagious as people with symptoms, the study found that they were the source of 79% of further infections due to there being more of them, and the higher likelihood they were out and about.“
3. WEAR A MASK any time you’re around people you don’t live with – My takeaway was that while a mask doesn’t guarantee you won’t pick up the virus when you inhale a suspended viral particulate droplet, it does reduce the transmission rate while also reminding you to not touch your face, especially your nose and mouth. So, not only does wearing a mask reduce the likelihood of airborne transmission, it reduces your likelihood of being infected from touching a surface because when you’re wearing a mask, you’re less likely to then touch your face.
This article published on March 28th in AAAS magazine contained the following statement… (https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2020/03/would-everyone-wearing-face-masks-help-us-slow-pandemic)
“Health officials jumped in to discourage them (buying masks), worried about the limited supply of masks for health care personnel. “Seriously people-STOP BUYING MASKS!” began a 29 February tweet from U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams. The World Health Organization and U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have both said that only people with COVID-19 symptoms and those caring for them should wear masks. But some health experts, including the director of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, think that’s a mistake. Health authorities in parts of Asia have encouraged all citizens to wear masks in public to prevent the spread of the virus, regardless of whether they have symptoms. And the Czech Republic took the uncommon step last week of making nose and mouth coverings mandatory in public spaces, prompting a grassroots drive to hand make masks.”
The video also states that four of the countries whose transmission curves have flattened the most quickly and dramatically were all countries where mask use was either mandatory or accepted practice. Those countries are South Korea, Japan, Singapore, Hong Kong and the Czech Republic.
The Czech Republic experienced a groundswell of public opinion leading to a national drive to make home-made masks for everyone.
In an article in The Washington Post entitled “Simple DIY masks could help flatten the curve. We should all wear them in public”, (https://www.washingtonpost.com/outlook/2020/03/28/masks-all-coronavirus/),
Jeremy Howard, a distinguished research scientist at the University of San Francisco found “34 scientific papers indicating basic masks can be effective in reducing virus transmission in public and not a single paper that shows clear evidence that they cannot” and “The reasons the WHO cites for its anti-mask advice are based not on science but on three spurious policy arguments. First, there are not enough masks for hospital workers. Second, masks may themselves become contaminated and pass on an infection to the people wearing them. Third, masks could encourage people to engage in more risky behavior. None of these is a good reason to avoid wearing a mask in public.”
The title and tag-line of an article published in The Wall Street Journal yesterday is “U.S. Reviews Guidance on Masks to Fight Coronavirus as Europe Embraces Their Use - New evidence of asymptomatic transmission supports Asian practice: To make infected people wear masks, make everybody wear one”
It seems that opinion on this issue might be beginning to shift, but as of now, in 10+ trips to grocery stores and gas stations in Chattanooga in the past two weeks, so far I’ve only seen two or three people wearing any sort of mask or gloves in public, and I’m both working and doing errands, and have seen hundreds of people.
We’re all laboring under a burden of mixed messages and rumors. From what I’ve seen of these issues there’s enough not-so-circumstantial information available to make anyone question the conventional wisdom, and if wearing a mask has even a small chance of flattening that curve, isn’t it in our own best interest to do so?
If the WHO is wrong, and if the virus is at all airborne, then we’re following a false practice which could have the effect of accelerating the spread of the virus exponentially, potentially at the expense of millions of lives.
If these suppositions are correct, the potential combination of airborne spread with a 78 percent spread-rate by undocumented and asymptomatic cases almost surely will have an accelerant effect.
Their final case for mask wearing has to do with something called “Inoculum” load made by Dr. Rishi Desai, a former outbreak investigator for the CDC. It turns out that if you start with just a few virus particles (inoculum) rather than a giant contamination load, the low doses are associated with better disease progression. When you start with a low inoculum, your body has more time, perhaps hours or even days to confront the virus and begin fighting it off. The low doses are associated with better outcomes and slower progression. The theory is that the mask might reduce the initial inoculum load and leads to those better outcomes.
One huge problem I see with the current way of doing things is that the data now coming in from China very strongly suggests that an overwhelming percentage of the spreaders are undiagnosed and asymptomatic. When you combine that issue with the probability that the virus is airborne, that makes wearing a mask not just an act of self-preservation, but overwhelmingly an act undertaken to protect others.
While it’s true that masks are in short supply and that they’re needed in the health care industry, it’s also true that if a mask does indeed prevent transmission from an asymptomatic person to an uninfected person, that single mask could be the break in a line of transmission which could lead to hundreds or thousands of more infections.
As of my writing this morning, on April 1st, 2020, according to the Arcgis COVID-19 tracker by Johns Hopkins University, there are now 862,234 cases of Coronavirus in the world. Right now, there are 189,633 in the U.S. and according to HealthCare’s “Infection Trajectory”, the U.S. infection rate is currently doubling every three days. According to that same application, here in Chattanooga, we have 50 confirmed cases, with three deaths, zero recovered and 47 active cases.
One striking aspect I see of the Chinese progression on the Infection Trajectory Tracker is how from day zero to day 30, it shoots straight up like a rocket, but then around day 35 it suddenly and abruptly takes a right turn and almost completely flattens out. From what I understand, it’s not just the draconian control the Chinese government exerts over its population that caused this, but it’s also at least in part, from their constant use of masks in public situations, along with lockdowns and social distancing.
In contrast, the U.S. graph line is shooting nearly straight up, with no sign of deflection, and we’ve surpassed them in cases by over 100,000 even though we had over a month’s notice that COVID-19 was coming.
For myself, from now on, I put on a fresh pair of gloves every time I walk into a store, and on the way out, they go in the trash. I wear them to the dog park, because I don’t know what’s on the gate handle, I disinfect my phone at least twice per day, and from this day forward, I’ll be wearing a mask of some sort in any public situation even if all I have is a bandanna to put around my face. From what I understand, anything is better than nothing. Right now, I’m using a few 8210 masks which I’ll disinfect by whatever means necessary and re-use until I can either get more, or start making my own. Disinfection is actually pretty easy, and can be something as simple as letting the mask sit, untouched for a few days.
In the final analysis though, I’m just a guy sharing some conclusions he’s jumped to. I’m not any sort of health professional, but I do love this town. If possible, I would like to see us reduce the damage caused by this blight, using whatever tools are available to us.
By now, I think most of us understand that while our government might be working hard to make things better, it’s pretty certain that this process is an evolution in a giant study, that we’re the guinea pigs, and that the results won’t be out for a couple of years.
With that in mind, let’s all work out our own salvation with fear and trembling and a healthy dose of skepticism, and how about we all start wearing masks and gloves, even if we have to make our own masks.
Here’s the video link
April 1st, 2020