Saturday, April 25, 2020

Weekend Reading: The Beaches Are Opening Edition

Here we are, on another Saturday morning! It is going to be pretty hot here today - my phone says we're going up to the mid-80s today. It is the sort of day that would normally send people flocking to the beaches, but they're still closed. San Diego county has said that people can get back on the water for their favorite watersports starting Monday, and people will be allowed to walk and run on the beach if the cities that control the beaches permit it. Mostly, it seems like they will. Parking lots remain closed, though, which may help keep the crowds down.

Face coverings will be mandatory if you're going to be within 6 feet of someone else starting May 1. We don't wear masks when walking around our neighborhood because it is easy to stay 6 feet away from people - we just zig-zag to the side of the street with no one else on it, and in the case when three groups are passing at once someone goes in the middle of the street. Being able to do this is one of the benefits of living in a quiet residential neighborhood. Mr. Snarky and I took a walk yesterday evening and were commenting on how different it would be if we lived in one of the cooler parts of town with less space. As far as I know, San Diego hasn't closed any streets to traffic to make it easier for those folks. 

I will probably go for a beach walk at some point in the next few weeks, but not right away. I'll give everyone time to figure things out. Maybe first I'll go for a walk by Mission Bay, which I can walk to (although it will be a long walk). I will wear a mask if I head down towards the water. I think it will be easier to keep 6 feet away now than it was earlier on, because I think more people will also be trying to preserve their own 6 foot bubble - but it won't be as sparse as our neighborhood walks.

I think reopening our outdoor spaces is a good thing as long as we can keep from crowding. The  more spaces that are open, the easier to avoid crowding. According the announcement I linked to above, the county is hoping to have a plan in place to allow more outdoor recreation by May 1. My hope is that by having access to our outdoor spaces, we'll be able to handle keeping the indoor spaces closed longer. As more data on transmission comes out, it seems increasingly clear that the primary mode of transmission is droplets and the risky thing is to stay in close proximity to other people for prolonged periods of time. So I am in no rush to sit down for a meal at a restaurant or even to lay out a towel on a beach surrounded by lots of other people doing the same. But I think a walk on the beach, particularly if I time it to a less busy time, would be fine. And I've thought that for awhile - I didn't see the problem with Florida opening its beaches even while I think Georgia is setting itself up for a lot of pain by opening restaurants and bowling alleys and the like. 

But my expertise is not epidemiology or virology, so let's link to some of the new studies from actual experts!

Here's the study from China about the not yet symptomatic person who went to a restaurant and apparently infected people at both neighboring tables that were in the line of airflow (due to the air conditioner), but no one else, not even at the neighboring table outside the line of airflow.

And here's the study from South Korea about the call center floor, in which the cases are predominantly on one side of the building.

It is still early, and we have much to learn about this virus and how it spreads. But the evidence so far points to droplet not aerosol, and longer time period exposure over short contacts (e.g., sitting near an infected person at work, not just passing them in the hall). Based on this, I would not be in a hurry to surf (for those who don't live near a surfing area, surfers hang out on their boards not that far apart from each other for long periods of time, waiting to catch a wave), but since the surfers here have been some of the loudest about wanting back in the water I suspect we'll have data on this soon enough.

California's first COVID-19 death was much earlier than we thought. It now seems likely that both NY and CA had community transmission going on in February. Why did the two states have such different outcomes? There are a lot of plausible theories: differences in the particular strain that infected each area (NY was seeded from Italy, CA directly from Wuhan), difference in transit methods (plenty of Californians use public transit, but there are differences in degree of usage and also mode), differences in weather, and of course the difference in timing of the lockdown (a few days at the point on an exponential curve when it really takes off can be a very big difference). We don't know the reason and we probably won't know for some time yet. We may never know. I think the best thing to do is ignore the online shouting about this sort of thing and focus on what the actual studies are telling us about transmission and infection risks.

The reports coming out about strokes in young COVID-19 patients with seemingly mild cases are a sobering reminder of why we should go slow on reopening things.

We all really want treatments or a vaccine, but we should keep our expectations on when we might have those things realistic. Derek Lowe at In the Pipeline has a run down of the types of treatments that are possible and the timeframe in which they might be available.  I've linked to a similar summary from Matthew Herper before, but I think it is worth reiterating. Derek leaves out convalescent plasma, which is available now, albeit only by recruiting recovered COVID-19 patients to donate and so not in anywhere near the quantities needed to make it a common treatment. There are studies indicating it is effective starting to come out.

If a repurposed small molecule treatment proves at all effective (and we're probably still a month away from having meaningful data on the most likely of the bunch, remdesivir), there will be a big manufacturing scale up needed. Lisa Jarvis has a good write up of what that means.

Here's some promising vaccine news.

If you haven't seen the story about the Pennsylvania workers who slept at their factory for 28 days go read it. It will make you feel better about humanity.

This is a really good point, and I don't think it is just billionaires thinking that other people should have to go back to work while they continue to work from home.

This made me laugh:

As did this:

Here's something funny that is not about Trump:

This xkcd cartoon may be maximally funny only to bioscientists old enough to have done sequence analysis in a text editor... But it really made me laugh.

I think I linked to the Welsh weatherman who played the drums to his closing music... here is the utterly delightful follow up:

This is so cool. I'm sad we can't really go see the bioluminescence right now. But there will be other times.

Here's your bunny of the week:

Happy weekend! I'm planning to get my hammock out under the avocado tree and just chill. I hope you have something good planned, too!

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