Please allow me to start this post with a heartfelt appreciation for the many years of hard work of many scholars. But my appreciation is in particular for Professor Linsey C. Marr, Professor Akiko Iwasaki and Dr. Wan Yang. The results of the study I authored rests solely on the shoulders of these – my – academic heroes. I am but a dwarf among these giants.
Again, I want to state very clearly that I fully agree with the guidance from the WHO and the RIVM guidance. ‘Social Distancing’ and Hygiene are effective measures to help reduce the risk of respiratory virus infection. They don’t really cost anything (financially). I also want to state unequivocally that the following protocol should not be misconstrued as an advise, recommendation or suggestion to engage in ‘Viral Promiscuity“. As stated, I agree with the guidance from authorities. They are responsible for our health and safety. If you don’t have to gather indoors, don’t.
But let me again state unequivocally that respiratory viruses spread through the air as well. This is a scientific fact. It is my – and many scientist’s – belief that airborne transmission accounts for 50% of the spread of these types of respiratory viruses. A few years ago the RIVM published a paper stating this to be a fact. You can read the paper here. Here is a screenshot.
The RIVM concluded that Aerosols are 20X more infectious than respiratory droplets and account for 50% of the infections. This means that ‘Social Distancing’ and ‘Hygiene’ only account for the other 50%. Its clear; ignoring aerosols is like trying to fill a bathtub with water while you leave the hole unplugged. It’s useless.
A person could argue:
But that applied to Influenza (the flu). It does not apply to the novel coronavirus. SARS-CoV-2 is a different virus.
They would be wrong. dead wrong. Influenza (Orthomyxoviridae) and SARS-CoV-2 (Coronaviridae) are two completely different viruses from two separate families of viruses, but both are enveloped viruses. They both have a lipid membrane which makes them susceptible to similar ‘environmental stresses’. They might not be the same, as even their RNA (the ‘Instruction code’ of the virus) is different. One difference is that our bodies tend to recognize Influenza and not SARS-CoV-2 (because its a NOVEL virus). A second difference is that the symptoms differ (ie. that’s because of the different ‘Instruction code’ of the virus). And third; COVID-19 seems to be slightly more deadly then the flu. But many scientists, myself included, theorize that similar ‘environmental stresses’ are the reason why we barely see any Influenza infections at the moment. A hypothesis is that this strain of coronavirus has replaced Influenza altogether. And if that’s the case, it makes my argument on ‘Air Defense” even stronger. The good news is that this also brings with it a lot of information on how to fight COVID-19.
To recap; We fight these viruses by avoiding getting infected through (i) direct human-to-human contact, (ii) Respiratory Droplets that can travel up to 2 meters (6 feet) and (iii) Aerosols that can travel long distances and keep floating in the air indefinitely (under the right circumstances)
So with that information in mind, we can create a protocol for locations that have many people interacting with each other, in close proximity. These locations tend to be: Supermarkets, Restaurants, Bars, Nightclubs, Libraries, Schools, Office Buildings, Malls, etc…
Any protocol needs to (i) deal with all three transmission routes, (ii) needs to convey its value proposition and (iii) needs to be as easy as possible. In the past twenty years, solving problems or creating solutions, I have learnt that ‘Usability’ and ‘Security’ are at opposite ends of the spectrum and that you need to offer something of value to the user and that you need to be honest about it. If you don’t make the ‘why’ clear, if people don’t trust you and if its difficult to use, people won’t use it and you won’t achieve adoption of whatever it is you are trying to sell. So be honest about it…
1. Solving Human-to-Human Infections
Hygiene (ie. Disinfection of hands) is a prerequisite of any decent strategy.
Why Hygiene? An active virus on your hands, gets into your body. You get sick and you might die. You might infect someone and they might die. That’s the message and its also the truth.
Solution? Hand sanitizer. It de-activates the virus. You use it, you safe lives. Maybe even your own.
How to make it easy? Provide a sanitizer that someone can carry around with them and that fits in someone’s pocket. Steve Jobs re-created a billion dollar company by doing just that (remember the iPod?). Avoid an alcohol based substance. It’s just plain ignorant to assume that people will sanitize every 20 minutes if it means having painful hands and blisters at the end of the day. And remind them to sanitize. Nightclubs actually have an advantage with this one; the MC can make it a fun thing by literally calling out every 20 minutes:
Raise your hands up in the air and sanitize like you just don’t care…
Example: The Viroless Non-Alcohol based Sanitizer, Pocketspray 20. Sold exclusively by Viroless on the Dutch market. Give it a try and see for yourself.
2. Solving Respiratory Droplet Infections
Avoiding droplets from ‘hitting your face’ is also a prerequisite of any decent strategy.
Why avoid it ‘Hitting your face’? An active virus on your face, gets into your body. You get sick and you might die. Coughing, while infected, might infect someone and they might die. That’s the message and its also the truth.
Solution? Facemask or Faceshield. It stops the virus from ‘Hitting faces’. You use it, you safe lives. Maybe even your own.
How to make it easy? Provide a facemask or faceshield when someone enters your facility. They’re cheap. And make it fun. Arthur “Spud” Melin created a billion dollar company, Wham-O, by doing just that (remember the ‘Hula Hoop’?) with a simple piece of plastic. It’s just plain ignorant to assume that people will wear the right facemask or faceshield if they have to buy it themselves. They know diddly-squat about masks and shields. And you also hit another issue; People just plain suck at taking care of their masks and shields. So many people get infected just by handling them improperly. Another advantage; recycling! Nightclubs actually have an advantage with this one; the nightclub can make it a fun thing by literally doing something with UV lighting.
3. Solving Aerosol Infections
Avoiding inhalation of active viruses in aerosols is the third prerequisite of any decent strategy.
Why avoid inhaling active virus? An active virus getting into your lungs is obviously a bad thing. You get sick and you might die. Someone else breathing in your virus might get infected it might kill them. That’s the message and its also the truth.
Solution? Ventilation, Humidifiers, Air Purifiers and UV Lighting. They stop the virus from ‘Flying around’ and infecting people. You use it, you safe lives. Maybe even your own.
How to make it easy? Always ventilate if possible. Have a Humidifier, Air Purifier and UV Lighting in your facility. They-re cheap and a great investment. In smoking rooms they use Air Purifiers for good reason; avoiding second-hand smoke. I wrote about preventing aerosols in my previous blogpost. It’s just plain ignorant to assume aerosols don’t infect people. They do and most likely are the biggest reason why people are getting infected. You don’t need to make them fun. You just need to have them. Plain and simple. You can buy some here
If these 3 measures are implemented i see absolutely no reason why a location could not remain open. In fact I would dare argue that we need these places to stay open and this is the way to do it. Its based on science, not opinion.
And if you’re worried about the costs? Why not ask your patrons to pay a small ‘Corona-Tax‘ of €5,–? It will literally pay for everything I described above. Call me crazy, but I think this solves all the issues. The locations remain open, in business, people can go out and enjoy themselves and life – at least in part – goes back to normal. AND….. we put a stop to Influenza (which already was a global killer) and the coronavirus.