Covid Facts About Transmission- A Message from our CMO
In a very different era, before the Jimmies and even Jay, we had Johnny. And my favorite version of Johnny was “Carnac the Magnificent.” Carnac was a seer who, in full turban, would give the answers to a sealed question. Confused? It went something like this....
Covid-19, Al Capone, and Plaquenil.
(The envelope tears open....)
"Name an evil bug, an evil thug, and an evil drug!”
(We will use Plaquenil on the right patient but wanted to give equal time to the Anti-Plaq readers in the audience)
Ok, let’s try a few more…
Houston Astros, Disneyland, and the World Health Organization.
(Tear the envelope.....)
Name three places that run a Mickey Mouse organization.
(That's for all the Dodger fans in the crowd)
OK, OK I’ve got a million of ‘em....
Household contacts, traveling, and large gatherings.
Name the top three sources of Covid exposure in the Caduceus Covid-19 Program.
(I know, not funny. But true.)
A barista, a doorknob, and a salad bar.
Name three sources NEVER named as the exposure to Covid in the Caduceus Covid Program.
In looking into how people catch Covid, we think back to the famous quote of the convict Willie Sutton. When asked why he robbed banks, he said "Because that’s where the money is.”
With our Covid numbers climbing in the wake of reopening our cities, we should look to where the virus is. The evidence shows clearly:
-You stand a very high risk of contracting the virus if you have close exposure to an active case.
-Your chance of catching it using an unsanitized public restroom is very low.
Studying cases in China, Europe, New York and California, all the data tells us it is close up, person to person exposure that spreads the virus. That is why cases dipped with stay-at-home orders. Assuming your household was free of virus, you had little risk with no exposure to infected individuals. Now with the lockdown relaxed, why are we seeing the current spike, where in other counties no spike was seen with reopening?
What we have now is accurate data we did not have in March. The experts identify "droplet contact" as the main mode of transmission. The virus primarily lives in the nose and mouth (and lungs of course). If the microscopic droplets carry from an infected person’s nose/mouth to your nose/mouth, it is VERY easy to catch.
If they fall to the ground or other surfaces they die pretty quickly. This is new data different than what we first thought.
What is bothersome is that if the droplets are very small they can travel far, much more than 6 feet. Remember that feather at the end of Forrest Gump, that fluttered for nearly a city block before landing? Covid is lighter and more mobile than that- you get the idea.
More worrisome is we now know Covid can be expelled just by normal talking and breathing, not only by sneezing and coughing. That is why we have seen large numbers from concerts and church services where crowds shout and sing loudly, expelling the virus many rows over. In fact singing turns out to be a major culprit, since they breath in deeply and expel the air forcefully. Add to the equation that the viral load of Covid is much higher than a virus such as the flu, and you see how quickly it can spread.
The literature tells us that if you live with someone Covid-infected your risk of contracting it is roughly 20%. The CDC sets parameters of 15 minutes of unprotected contact with someone less than 6 feet away as a very high risk situation, hence the need for masks, plexiglass, and distancing. Fist bumps and elbow bumps are not going to keep you from being infected. Neither will being young and healthy. Distance will.
And I know this is blasphemy but wiping surfaces with Lysol, taking away the soda fountain, removing the office coffee pot, and leaving your shopping bags at home are most likely doing very little to prevent the spread. In fact, probably nothing. Instead, preventing close contact in break rooms, locker rooms, group bathrooms, and elevators is much more critical.
Of course for maximal effect, it helps to know who is actually infected. In Denmark, Covid testing has been offered free of charge to every citizen. Germany combined massive testing with contact tracing, a very sensitive subject here in the US.
And you know what they found? Schools were never the primary source of Covid despite what was believed. In contrast to California's schools being closed, Denmark immediately re opened theirs, with no increase in Covid cases. In California the effect of online classes has been less than ideal, while our new cases keep climbing despite school closures.
One major issue is that when someone is diagnosed with Covid here, isolation and quarantine appear to be mere suggestions. Many of our cases diagnosed still leave the home for errands, one gentleman even returned to work, against medical advice of course. If they live with their partner or roommate, they assume isolation means sitting on the far side of the couch without a mask. But in New Zealand which has declared themselves free of Covid, total isolation was mandated. They required a test-of-cure, whereas in the US we do not. (Caduceus does, within legal and ethical limits.)
We do not have to look abroad, we have data right here in the USA. A county of Ohio reopened with a DECREASE in cases recently. How did they do that? They made an aggressive effort to markedly increase testing. And when new cases were found, they were put in strict isolation. I’m not aware if they did contact tracing, but it wouldn't surprise me. And even with INCREASED testing, they now see LESS cases. So much for blaming more testing for any higher cases reported, right?
So where are the new cases coming from? Data tells us household work and other close person to person contacts. Nursing homes. Public travel, especially boats and planes. And large gatherings such as parties and yes, protesting. Basically anywhere where lots of people are in prolonged, close contact.
Where do we NOT see the newer cases coming from? Amazon boxes. Shopping bags. Light switches. Buffets. Dry cleaners. Hiking trails. Sunbathing on the sand.
So perhaps we need to intensify prevention of close contacts without masks, and relax a bit on how often a counter is wiped down. Even if churches reopen consider doing online worship until the cases drop. But as long as your beach towel is a safe distance from others, you are most likely safe enjoying a Laguna sunset from the sand. Want to take a quick trip to Napa? Renting a car poses little risk. Flying or train---beware.
At Caduceus, we are guilty of disinfecting our rooms and cleaning our doorknobs. Yet we also created lobbyless offices. Patients are taken directly to the exam room or texted when the room is ready. Our staff is tested regularly for Covid, and have their temperature taken at the start of their shift. We treat patients with a fever or infection via telemedicine only. All of our Covid testing is done curbside. Even routine labs are drawn curbside. And we offer every patient having blood drawn a Covid test. We urge our patients to continue to come in for their routine health care needs. We commit to them the lowest risk to Covid exposure possible.
-Avoid person to person close contact for greater than 15 minutes whenever possible
-Avoid large gatherings especially where there is shouting, singing, speeches, and heavy breathing. Special areas of concern are karaoke, clubs, bars, gyms, and churches.
-Avoid visiting nursing homes and hospitals unless essential
-Avoid plane, bus, boat, train, Uber travel unless essential.
-For any close contact wear your mask, respect the plexiglass, wash your hands.
-If you test positive for heaven’s sake ISOLATE. That means your own bedroom, your own bathroom, and do not engage with any other housemates. If you must leave your room and go to the kitchen, everyone should wear a mask. Do not leave the house until you test negative. If your meals are being prepared for you, they should be left outside your door. You should not watch TV in the family room unless you are alone.
-If you test positive, think hard of all your close contacts in the previous 14 days. Implore them to get tested. If you are not infected, but know someone who is positive and had contact with them, YOU should get tested.
For the last conclusion let’s revisit Carnac…
Test. Test. Test.
Name three ways you will know if you’re contagious--or immune.
Know if you're contagious.
Know if you're immune.
Gregg Denicola MD
Chief Medical Officer
Caduceus Medical Group