Monday, August 24, 2020

Corona Revisited

The virus is still with us, so “revisit “is a big word, but the other day a reader with whom I had an animated lunch in a beer garden remarked that I had recently been quiet about Corona in my blogs.

Well, I still keep myself informed, but its bizarre behavior greatly perturbs our knowledge about the Coronavirus. It seems that it has lost some of its aggressivity, although infections surge in most countries (in Germany from an all-time low of 250 cases in a day on June 15 to above 2000 on August 23). One scientist even suggested that Corona’s symptoms will soon degrade to a simple sniffle for the virus likes the noses so much and finds it exhausting to climb down to the lungs.

The fact is that presently younger people having a milder disease progression are more frequently infected than the old, while the latter were harder hit at the beginning of the pandemic. It is also true that older people generally take hygiene precautions more seriously than the young so their infection rate should become lower.

In Germany, in daily life, the AHA-rules are promoted and must be observed. AHA stands for Abstand (distance), hand washing, and Alltagsmasken (simple everyday mouth-nose-covers). In fact, I wash my hands more frequently than before Corona using a liquid soap branded Sagrotan® that should kill germs and viruses effectively. On the other hand, I detest disinfectants and, in particular, pure alcohol on my hands.

I carry an FPP2 mouth-nose-cover when it is obligatory (in shops and public transport) or whenever I am in crowded places. This is true for Freiburg’s open-air Minster market.

I also belong to the ten percent of those wearing a mask at Kieser’s muscle training. At their premises, they keep all windows wide open (for how long still in the year?). Many attendants thoroughly disinfect the machines before using them; others wear gloves. I prefer to wash my hands meticulously after the exercise even if the man behind me has to wait in line for me to finish my double murmuring of “Happy Birthday. “

It is quite clear that with CoV-Sars-2, the Virenlast (viral load) is an essential factor for catching Covid-19. When infected people produce droplet-aerosol mixtures in a confined space by speaking loudly, shouting, singing, or performing heavy physical work, the risk of infection is significant. Air conditioning systems without a sufficient addition of fresh air will distribute these viral-loaded mixtures slightly horizontally. Rooms that cannot be adequately ventilated are not suitable for massive crowds of people. Extended exposures to wabernde Wolken (billowing clouds) of viral-loaded aerosols present the worst-case scenario.

I feel sorry for the young generation. It is evident that Red Baron doesn’t miss crowded pop concerts or soccer games, but I am somewhat worried about the fall and winter season hesitating to eat in restaurants or have one beer or two with friends in ill-ventilated but cozy pubs and bars. How many of those places will survive in 2021?

While the Coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 is mainly transmitted by the uptake of droplets and aerosols to the mouth, nose, and throat, contaminated hands as a means of transport when touching the nose, mouth, or eyes with or without gloves are of minor importance. 

Many shops now offer hand disinfectant dispensers. I avoid them. Washing the hands at the end of a shopping tour is sufficient. 

Other studies further showed that smear infections through contact with contaminated objects play an even more subordinate role in the spread of Covid-19. The Robert-Koch Institute (RKI), Germany’s epidemic watch, does not recommend routine surface disinfection in private and public areas. Appropriate cleaning is the procedure of choice.

At the beginning of the pandemic, the protective effect of mouth-nose-covers was played down by virologists. Still, since the beginning of June the World Health Organisation (WHO) has been advising people to wear face masks. The RKI too now recommends that the public wear a mouth and nose cover “in certain situations in public places”, i.e., public transport, shops, or in confined or congested areas.

At the same time, however, the UN organization warned that masks could even increase the risk of disease if people touched them with dirty hands, thus contaminating them. In this context, Red Baron does not believe in self-infection. If the mouth-nose-cover of an infected person is loaded with exhaled Coronaviruses, they will mostly stay where they are and, above all, they will not multiply within the mask and re-infect the wearer. 

RKI’s caveat: “mouth-nose-covers could be an additional element in reducing the speed of propagation of Covid-19 in the population - but only if distance (at least 1.5 meters) from other people, rules for coughing and sneezing and good hand hygiene are still observed”.

Furthermore, according to experts, only special fine particle masks, also known as filtering facepieces (FFP), are suitable for protecting the wearer against infection by droplets from infected people with some reliability. They consist entirely or partially of non-replaceable filter material and reduce infectious aerosols in the inhaled air.

Red Baron’s FFP2 mouth-nose-cover. I bought a dozen on the Internet
and made some friends happy, handing them out to them.
FFP masks are available in three different classes differing in their permeability. All three types are considered to be at least more effective than the commercially available Alltagsmasken (standard everyday face masks). The higher the class, the better they should protect. The permeability, also called leakage, must not exceed ten percent for FFP2 and only two percent for FFP3 masks.

When I was in Potsdam the other day, I saw a Corona Extra on the pavement. Already Heinrich von Kleist had the Prince of Homburg shout: “In Staub mit allen Feinden Brandenburgs! (Into the dust the enemies of Brandenburg!)”.

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