More notes on the Pandemic, slipping into September Part 4

Covidology

Personal

The rate of infection is creeping up again in Toronto. The gloomy predictions are that cooler weather and the opening of school is going to trigger a new wave of everyone’s favourite virus.

The handling of the pandemic continues to be badly managed. People still do not know what they are officially supposed to do. Most people can work things out for themselves, though some people still have wrong ideas. I will at this point briefly render my understandings of how to “stay safe.”

People have become fixated on masks as the main way of preventing transmission. The growing information is that masks help a lot, but they are not the sole solution. A big problem is that they have to be well designed masks and they have to be worn right.

To help explain this, here is a really good video from my fellow Torontonian Science Sam. Listen up!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WhzzVpp54HA

Handwashing also helps somewhat, “social distancing” definitely helps, and even scrubbing down objects is likely useful. The Bug does not seem to stay too long on surfaces, especially rough surfaces. But the truth is that nothing short of living in an isolation chamber and going out in a space suit will totally protect you form the virus.

The dimension of covidology which does not seem to be discussed enough is ventilation; the role of air circulation. The single biggest rule, above masks and everything else, is; stay out of dead air. Especially, stay out of dead air that other people are breathing into.

This is why Covid does not seem to get passed on out of doors. It seems to depend on a buildup of virus in a pool of dead air. This is why transportation vectors, elevators, and lobbies of buildings can be so worrisome.

But all these places ought to have a powerful air circulation system. Sometimes they do not. Sometimes they are not working properly, or maintained properly. Sometimes somebody missed the point of air conditioning; the used air is supposed to go outside.

Societal

This seems to have been the problem at a coffee shop in South Korea recently. A super spreading lady sat down right under the air conditioning intake. Soon after all the other customers became Covid positive. However, the staff of this establishment all wore masks and all remained covidless.

The Land of Morning Calm is giving us many lessons about controlling the pandemic of late. A woman came down with It in an apartment building and apparently managed to infect most of the rest of the building just on her trip down the elevator to go to a hospital.

Thus there seem to be certain people who are just Covid germ factories while other infected people do not pass in on so readily. As well, it takes the right conditions; a failure somewhere to prevent the infection chain with masks, cleanliness, ventilation and so on.

The Koreans had been cocky. They had it early on and they wiped it out. Then they slacked off. The virus came in from abroad and roared back to life. Keep in mind, it is bad there only by western standards. East Asia is better able to fight the virus than anywhere on earth.

Now Korea is again suppressing the virus but a main problem now similar to that faced by health authorities in many parts of the world. There are some religious leaders in Korea with a grudge against the present Korean government. Probably they have a grudge with any authority that might possible restrict them.

They are claiming that prevention measures are interfering with ‘civil liberties’. People must have a divine right to get themselves sick or dead, and to infect other people in the process.

The part of the world with the fewest Covid cases is South East Asia, especially Thailand. No one is sure just why, but all of these countries have a good health care system, a good concept of the common good, and social customs that limit body contact. They do not like to shake hands or embrace there. Other theories are; something in the water of the Mekong river, or something in the genes of the people living there.

What is singular about countries which have really been able to keep Covid under control has been a determination to suppress it and a willingness to use centralized quarantine. The latter will give civil libertarians the conniptions the world over, but that is what really works.

Historical

In fact, this has been the lesson of human kind’s struggles with epidemics all down recorded history. If authorities decide to just let the people die and let the plague burn itself out, they invite disaster. In the black death, the European nobility had the idea that it was just a disease among commoners; until they started dying too. By then it was too late.

Recently a lot of people have made wise over the net about the great plague of Athens and its relevance to our present “plague”. Usually they write about how the plague destroyed or weakened the Athenian democracy.

There is so much consistency to these essays that they seem to have been planted by some media curator. Especially, they all seem to love Thucydides, with his idea that the big problem with Athens was too much democracy.

Typical of this stuff is the article in the US magazine Atlantic. https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2020/03/great-plague-athens-has-eerie-parallels-today/608545/

Read further about the plague of Athens and it seems that the big problem was it was politically impossible to apply normal and sensible public health measures until it was too late. The Athenian population seemed to go into a panic and to become demoralized.

However, the plague does not seem to have been too devastating to Athens. They were able to continue their war with Sparta and its allies. This despite the Spartans being very little effected by the plague.

The real problems with the history of plagues and pandemics is that we only read of the cases where the disease got out of hand and caused social and economic devastation. We don’t know much about the plagues which were controlled. However, the measures against epidemics are as old as time and are generally effective; shut down transmission vectors, trace and quarantine likely disease carriers.

Well governed societies are able to do this without too much trouble, and without serious economic disruption. The ability to deal with pandemics is one of the strongest indicators of a government and society which is sound. We look around at what countries have dealt with the pandemic and ask what it tells us about our own.

Canada has not really handled Covid19 very well. As with most things, we only look good in comparison to the mess in the USA. I will return to this in the next installment of this series.

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