BACK STORY with DANA LEWIS

RUNNING HOT; COVID-19

July 07, 2020 Dana Lewis Season 1 Episode 16
BACK STORY with DANA LEWIS
RUNNING HOT; COVID-19
Chapters
BACK STORY with DANA LEWIS
RUNNING HOT; COVID-19
Jul 07, 2020 Season 1 Episode 16
Dana Lewis

Warning! 239 scientists from 32 Countries have written a joint letter to the World Health Organization saying they have it wrong.   That guidance on Covid19's spread is wrong. The W.H.O. says the virus is spread by heavy droplets emitted by a cough or sneeze and quickly fall to the floor or ground. But many scientists now believe the virus is airborne, staying in the air in enclosed areas such as planes and restaurants.   And, that we need to rethink how we deal with the spread of the pandemic.

Award winning and World Affairs Correspondent Dana Lewis based in London, talks to epidemiologist Archie Clements and what we know and why the spread hasn't slowed in America and elsewhere. 

Show Notes Transcript

Warning! 239 scientists from 32 Countries have written a joint letter to the World Health Organization saying they have it wrong.   That guidance on Covid19's spread is wrong. The W.H.O. says the virus is spread by heavy droplets emitted by a cough or sneeze and quickly fall to the floor or ground. But many scientists now believe the virus is airborne, staying in the air in enclosed areas such as planes and restaurants.   And, that we need to rethink how we deal with the spread of the pandemic.

Award winning and World Affairs Correspondent Dana Lewis based in London, talks to epidemiologist Archie Clements and what we know and why the spread hasn't slowed in America and elsewhere. 

DANA LEWIS :

Hi everyone. And welcome to backstory reporting to you from London. I'm Dana Lewis, creator and host of this podcast. I'm an overseas correspondent formerly based in Moscow Jerusalem before that, and I was a national news anchor and reporter in Canada. In this episode, running hot. COVID-19.

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https://www.buzzsprout.com/1016881/4469297.

Speaker 2:

The latest on the coronavirus emergency these 35 States now reporting any increasing cases to Corona virus. Persists . Parents are now demanding answers about what is school going to look like this fall? What's driving the coronavirus, sir ,

Speaker 3:

In this country right now,

Speaker 4:

Please, please wear a face covering. When you go out in public

Speaker 5:

Health officials in the U S have resulted to begging residents to follow health guidelines for trend line up, including several days last week, topping 50,000 and continue to be in a lot of trouble. And there's going to be a lot of hurt. If that does not stop, we are now having 40 plus thousand new cases a day. I would not be surprised if we go up to a hundred thousand a day, if this does not turn around. And so I am very concerned.

DANA LEWIS :

Nowhere is the COVID-19 pandemic more out of control than in America where the federal government has abandoned any sensible emergency response, leaving it to individual States to do as they please we're president Trump first said in February Corona virus was very well under control. He said, recently it will just disappear. And now he says like AIDS, a vaccine will be found this year,

President Trump:

The AIDS vaccine they've come up with or the AIDS. And as you know, there's various things and now various companies are involved, but the therapeutic for AIDS AIDS was a death sentence. And now people live a life with a pill. It's an incredible thing. I always say, even without it, it goes away. But if we had the vaccine and we will, if we had therapeutic or cure one thing, sort of blends into the other,

DANA LEWIS :

That's great news, except there is no AIDS vaccine. And the Democrats say the American president is negligent here in Europe. Us travelers are banned this summer. So it was bars and restaurants, reopened planes are flying. People are relaxing after months of lockdown. And now this ,

Speaker 4:

Yes,

DANA LEWIS :

More than 200 scientists have sent the world health organization, a letter saying they believe COVID-19 is airborne. And that in aerosol form, tiny particles can linger in the air for hours. So we'll talk to an epidemiologist and ask him your questions about social risks and travel and the politics of science at the world health organization. And we'll ask the question, are we getting the truth about the spread of the virus and what we know for more on this? We go to Perth, Australia now to curtain university, Archie Clements is an epidemiologist and pro vice chancellor in the faculty of health sciences there. And he was also a sometime ago based at Imperial college in London. Aren't you, if I can ask you just over 200 scientists in 32 countries have written this jarring letter, it's jarring to the public , uh , to the who saying they haven't wrong, but COBIT is not only airborne, but lingers in the air indoors. You're comment.

archie clements:

What's very clear is that as a scientific community, we're learning more and more about this virus as time goes by. It's not a virus that we have a long history of accumulated scientific knowledge. Uh , and so it is understandable that , um, as new information comes in , um, we, we reevaluate our understanding of the transmission , um , and risk of this , uh, if this infection

Speaker 3:

And yet, and yet all these, all these governments are advising us . So some are saying, stay away from two meters, six feet. Others are saying, no, you can reduce that now to one meter and three feet. I mean, it sounds like people are threshing around without very firm answers.

archie clements:

I think people are trying to make decisions using the best available information. And as I've mentioned, the information that we're getting is continually changing as we learn more about the virus. Um, we're also trying to apply knowledge that we have from other infectious diseases. And some of that knowledge applies well to Corona virus , but some of that knowledge is not so applicable. And so I think it's really understandable that we are seeing variation in the recommendations that are being made. And we're also seeing those recommendations changing by the time , uh , what we need is a good system for the collation of that knowledge , uh , in order to build evidence based decisions. You know, the other issue that we've got of course is that we've got multiple jurisdictions all around the world, trying to deal with this pandemic at the same time, with local knowledge, local expertise , uh, and you know, a global coordinating body, the WHR , that's trying to bring all this information together. Uh , and that's a really challenging thing to do in the current situation.

Speaker 3:

Well, is it political? I mean, if the, who comes out and tells me this is the situation, should I believe them, or do I need to understand that they are compromising all the time? Because there are so many countries that may be pulling at them for the answers they want, because why, because they want to get their economies going.

Speaker 4:

I think it would be naive to suggest that a pandemic decision making does not a political dimension. Of course it does. Um, largely because of the , um, social and economic impact of , of pandemics on our communities. So yes, of course there is a political dimension. And I think , um, the who of course is a partly political organization. It's a membership organization with almost 200 members from which represent , uh , countries all around the world. Um, and they have to be answerable to their members. It's not I, and an independent agency that operates , um, you know, or if its own volition . It is answerable, answerable to all of those , uh, renters .

Speaker 3:

But when they're talking about science and this is a sun , these are scientific communities. One would hope that they are saying, this is the evidence. This is the answer. Or we don't have it.

Speaker 4:

Well, that's up to the member communities to prioritize and privileged signs over their own political , um , imperatives. So if the, if the member , um , member organizations, the countries that are members of the who , um , wish to prioritize science over their own political interests, then the WHR has a greater, greater , has greater ability to , um, to lead with scientific evidence based decisions and recommendations. But if the member nations want to prioritize their own political imperatives, I have a science. So that makes it the situation for the whi very, very difficult.

Speaker 3:

All right , let's come back and make this very simple, because I don't think most people want to see this politically. They want to know, do they send their kid into a classroom where the, where the desk is three feet or six feet away, or do they go to a pub or do they go in a tube or a bus or a plane. So I understand you are not a virologist, you're an epidemiologist. So you advise people in public health safety. We now have this debate over aerosols. What is your instinct tell you about this, the ability of COVID-19 to linger in the air?

Speaker 4:

Uh , well, my instinct suggests that this virus is probably spread by droplets and that the biggest risk that you've got as being infected by someone you're in close proximity with is sneezing or coughing or potentially , um, talking , um, uh , you know , uh , or, you know, and those droplets, you know, most likely will be directly transferred to you through a breathing or through , um, contacted those droplets with your conjunctiva or other mucus membranes. Uh, and that it requires you to be in a location, same location of someone, probably an enclosed space for a significant period of time. Um, we're not seeing, you know, the, the reproductive number for this virus , um , where in the absence of, of any economy intervention is between two and three, that doesn't suggest to me that it's a tremendously transmissible virus. It's sort of an average virus when it comes to its transmission potential. Uh , I think some of the claims that have been made around , um, um, chemo accumulated viral particles in the air, I've , I've a long period of time , um, to my mind would probably result in a much more transmissible sort of virus. So I think droplets are probably still the primary means of transmission. I'm not a biologist. I , um, are looking at this from an epidemiological perspective. And of course , uh , experimental studies of our electrical studies might prove me wrong, but my instinct would suggest that this is a disease list spread largely by droplets. Um, and that it is not hugely transmissible. And it does require that sustained context .

Speaker 3:

So you don't think the norm would be an , an aerosol where COVID-19 would linger in the air in a room for hours or days or anything like that?

Speaker 4:

No, I don't think so. I don't think that's unlikely. I think , um, I think , um, if, if we saw that, I think it would be, it would be, you know, we'd be seeing much more explosive transmission.

Speaker 3:

Do you think that we're going to have to, if this is true, that there is some aerosol form of COVID-19 that may stay in a room or a whatever environment longer than we think, then we have to rethink what we have to rethink ventilation systems, ultraviolet lights, classrooms, transportation, everything.

Speaker 4:

Well, I think that , um, plenty of countries have demonstrated that we can get on top of coronavirus with , um , the mechanisms that we have in place at the moment , uh, with , um, social distancing , um, with , uh , good hygiene and sanitation. Um, and , you know, with , um, prevention of people crossing borders between jurisdictions, plenty of countries have already gotten, gotten on top of the epidemic using does that as a purchase. I don't think that we need to be completely rethinking , um, our approach and , you know, the way that we set up ventilation systems in buildings, I think that's not feasible. And I don't think that that , um, I don't think the evidence points us in that direction. I think really what we've got to do is do what the countries that have done that, that have been successful have done, which is, you know , shut down , um, uh, areas where the coronavirus is transmitting in the community, prevent people from moving between those areas and other parts of, of, of the country or the world , um, ensure social distancing, all those measures have been demonstrated to be effective. Um, so that that's, that's, that's really my position

Speaker 3:

Very quickly. Why, when you talk about time , uh, w where you are in a prolonged

Speaker 4:

Yeah ,

Speaker 3:

P period next to somebody who may be transmitting the disease, why does time equal increased risk? I guess the answer is fairly obvious ,

Speaker 4:

Uh, probably relates to the dose of exposure and the , um, and , and the , the probability of exposure. So the longer that you're in close contact with someone who's shedding the virus, the greater, the probability that you will get a, an infected load of virus, that's really that simple , um , simple answer to that question.

Speaker 3:

So it's one thing getting on a tube for one stop. It's quite another staying on there for 40 minutes. So that means in a plane, I am increasing my risk on air transportation, for instance, because a short flight versus an overseas flight.

Speaker 4:

Yeah. Only by virtue of the fact that you're with someone for a longer period of time, not by virtue of any other kind of difference between the plan and any other form of transport.

Speaker 3:

Would you get on a plane that summer?

Speaker 4:

Uh, I think you asked me that question before, and I , and I said, I'm certainly not to go to the States from Australia. Um, uh, would I do it when I traveled domestically within the United States? Probably not. Um, yeah, that would probably be my answer.

Speaker 3:

When you see what's happening in the United States, you must be shaking your head. Like everybody is the worst yet to come there. Do you think?

Speaker 4:

Yes, there is. And it's , it's absolutely shocking. Uh, the , the government has absolutely failed appallingly in United States. The messaging it's been given the wrong messaging all the way through , um, you know, the latest messaging around , um, being on top of the virus , uh , being on top of the epidemic, Mike Pence has . Um, um, as I , on that, on that topic is, was just so out of touch with what's really happening. I want earlier on the United States was moving out of lockdown to Ali . Uh, I also want my mailing out of , um, out of lockdown too early and resuming economic activity that the economic, the longterm consequences for the economy would be far worse because you wouldn't get on top of the, all of the pandemic , uh , you know, the underfunding of public health agencies in the United States , uh , the politicization of the , um , response have all been appalling , have all been the wrong choice and the American people are suffering and suffering as a result. It's a real shame

Speaker 3:

In here in England , uh , on the weekend, it was super Saturday. They called it pubs open people. When you take a look at some of the video, people jammed into bars and Soho, they were supposed to sit at tables, but they weren't there a crowded standing up at bars, no social distancing. Um, England now is dropping its 14 day mandatory quarantine for visitors for more than 50 countries , uh, on July the 10th. Are we also in the UK heading for something worse ?

Speaker 4:

Well, the levels of community transmission in the UK recently have been much lower than in the United States. Um, so I think the risks there are possibly slightly lower. Um, of course the United Kingdom also has a centralized national health service, and I think it's much easier to coordinate , um, the response by area. So what would happen, I think in the United Kingdom would be if there is a localized outbreak that there would be a localized lockdown, and that has actually happened recently in Leicester . Uh, so I think that the United Kingdom wouldn't have been a physician . I do understand, and I've said it all along. I do understand the need for countries to , um, manage the economic consequences of their public health response to the coronavirus. And I do absolutely understand the need to re engage in economic activities, including , um, you know, the entertainment industry and the like , um, so I absolutely get that. Um, but I think the countries have to be willing when you get localized outbreaks to , um , implement rigorous local public health responses. We're also saying that in Australia, at the moment in Melbourne women, we have seen any , uh , community outbreak of infection over a hundred cases per day. Um , for three of the lot , three of the last four days. Um, and we were seeing a rigorous localized response. We can do that in a country like Australia. You can do that in the country, like the UK where I'm aware you're largely on top of community transmission. And you're really just doing fire engine work to try and shut down , um, pockets of , um , occurrence as they, as they, as they , um, you know, as they're identified, it's a very different situation in the United States where you have rampant community transmission, and that's been there all along, or at least since the beginning of the pandemic, there's never been a situation in the United States where there's been where the pandemic has really, really been on to control it at any kind of national level. So, yeah , I think the situation in the UK is different. Um, but I, I do think there are risks. I think , um, you are likely to say localized outbreaks as a result of , uh, the relaxation of social distancing, but , um, you know, I think that the UK is probably well positioned to manage that on , uh , on the basis of localized responses.

Speaker 3:

Thank you so much for your time. Aren't you climates is an epidemiologist at Curtin university in Perth, Australia,

DANA LEWIS :

And that's our latest edition of backstory. As we record this on July the sixth, 2020, there are 11,419 cases of COVID-19 in the world, deaths 530, 3000 and rising. That's just over half a million people lost to friends and families around the world. If you enjoyed backstory, please subscribe and share it so we can bring you more. I'm Dana Lewis and I'll talk to you soon.

Speaker 6:

[inaudible] .https://www.buzzsprout.com/1016881/4469297