COVID-19

It’s been interesting to watch the progression of information concerning the coronavirus pandemic this year. Dedicated scientists are working to figure out what the virus is all about. In no way do I want to insult these people that are way smarter than I am, I just continue to have questions that I can’t seem to find answers to. So, let’s look at some questions, and see what WE can come up with for answers. I mean we, because I’d like to hear your opinion and share it with readers. Please, just be nice in your answers or questions you may have. You may email opinions or questions to news@deltawindonline.com. Please include your name and contact information.

I also want to say that this is in no way an attempt to downplay the significance of the virus or its related disease on those that have become sick, been hospitalized, or died. I seek to listen and understand the pandemic.

According to a John Hopkins University study from last January, it has now been one year since the first person with the virus became ill. The individual became ill on Dec. 1, 2019.

Now is a good time to take a brief look at what a coronavirus is. First discovered in 1965, coronaviruses are a big family of viruses that are common in animals – other than humans – and can swap genes in the right environments and later move to humans. There have been many different coronaviruses, seven of which have been documented to have transferred to humans. As I understand, one coronavirus meets with another coronavirus – usually from two different species of animals – and mutates into a new coronavirus that can be spread to humans. The current coronavirus is believed to have first appeared in bats and exchanged genes with pangolins (scaly anteaters) according to scientists from Duke University, Los Alamos National Laboratory, the University of Texas at El Paso, and New York University.

Other well know coronavirus are MERS and SARS. The current virus is officially named severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). Comparing the two SARS named viruses, a John Hopkins article says, “Much is still unknown, but COVID-19 seems to spread faster than the 2003 SARS and also may cause less severe illness.”

A coronavirus can also cause the common cold.

The first person that became ill apparently developed viral pneumonia, as did other people who visited an open-air seafood market in Wuhan, China. The interesting part to this is that the first person who became ill did not, please note, did not have a connection to the seafood market.

I mentioned, “virus and its related disease” earlier. Coronavirus is just that, a virus. If you have a coronavirus test done and the results are positive, it simply means the virus is present in your body or has been present. Many people that test positive are asymptomatic. That is, they have the virus, but no symptoms of the disease caused by the virus, which leads me to the question, does it matter if someone has the virus? And, does having the virus mean you have the potential to spread the virus?

There is no specific treatment for the virus, but the symptoms of the related disease can often be treated. The idea is to control the symptoms and allow the body to fight the presence of the virus, just like with the common cold. Unfortunately, a number of people that get the virus and develop symptoms seem to develop more serious symptoms, especially in people with underlying conditions.

The general consensus is the virus was first discovered in December of last year, but I can’t quite decide if that is accurate or not. Looking at the numbers and the rate of spread, it spread very quickly in the beginning and the rate of growth has slowed down significantly. What we are seeing appear to be more positive tests, but not a large rate of growth in the increase in cases.

For example, locally, we had very few cases until October/November, when the rate of spread increased rapidly, but the rate of spread has been consistent for the past several weeks and not increased significantly.

The virus is transported through the air.

According to a John Hopkins article that was updated within the past month, “As of now, researchers know that the new coronavirus is spread through droplets released into the air when an infected person coughs or sneezes. The droplets generally do not travel more than a few feet, and they fall to the ground (or onto surfaces) in a few seconds.”

So, you breath out, droplets fall to the floor, table, arms, that mask you just took off for the 25th time today, etc.

If those droplets stay on the surface they fell to, are they a problem? I’m not sure anyone knows for sure.

Then we come to the issues of health officials wanting everyone to wear masks in public, while at the same time saying that to be a “close contact” with a reasonably high chance of getting the virus you need 15 minutes of contact with an infected individual. If the virus is very contagious, and you need to wear a mask to protect others and yourself when you have casual contact, then why do you need to be near someone for 15 minutes to be a close contact?

Should we be wearing masks because when people go through the store or are in a restaurant the air itself is becoming contaminated? Does being there means you have a high chance of contracting the virus?

One of the most interesting topics to me surrounds travel. Why is it important to limit travel between states and test people entering the state, when we don’t require testing between locations within the state. Is the virus you might bring with you from Seattle worse than the one you could bring with you from Anchorage to our local community? By the way, my last conversation with personnel from the State’s Emergency Operations Center says they are only finding about 10 positive cases a week through airport testing statewide of the 1,000s being tested. Could the people conducting those tests be put to better use performing contact tracing so that I know if I was exposed to someone that has tested positive.

What do you think about all this?

You may email opinions or questions to news@deltawindonline.com. Please include your name and contact information.

Michael Paschall is the publisher of the Delta Wind and covers general news topics. He can be reached at news@deltawindonline.com.