Sunday, April 21, 2024

Thoughts on science, not politics

by DOUG ALBERTSON/Guest opinion
| December 12, 2020 1:00 AM

I read Saturday’s “My Turn” by Brent Regan with some agreement.

Having worked as a microbiologist straight out of college before I opened an analytical lab, I realize that viruses are both non-living and incredibly small. The company for whom I worked utilized Millipore filters to sterilize fluid. We employed 0.45-micron filters in stacks to sterilize our product. Naked viruses can pass through a 0.45-micron filter like wind-born dust through a cyclone fence.

Fortunately, viruses, in the case of COVID-19, are generally attached to droplets of saliva, which can be trapped with some efficiency in a conventional cloth mask. The size of the droplet to which the virus is hitching a ride dictates the effectiveness of capture. If the viral load passing through the mask is low the wearer can either escape infection or contract a mild case of the disease. With a low dose of virus, the body’s immune system has more time to muster a defense.

In the presence of an infected person, the mask wearer will receive droplets of saliva of various size depending upon the time of contact and the closeness of the infected person. The mask will become contaminated as will any other surface on the mask wearer's body.

The eyes, nose, and mouth are the main entrances for viral infection. A mask provides some protection for the nose and mouth while glasses or a shield provide some protection for the eyes. For infected people, a mask can reduce the quantity of infected droplets they would emit during breathing or coughing.

In his My Turn, Mr. Regan states, “… the use of face coverings necessitates that a person touch their face more frequently; to put on, adjust, scratch and remove the covering. This face covering promoted contact transmission may explain the high infection rates of face covering users.”

This statement implies that people who wear face coverings have a higher rate of infection than people who don’t wear face coverings. This is contrary to information publicized by the CDC and Dr. Anthony Fauci, NIAID director.

Clearly, a mask will need to be rearranged if it is poorly fitted. If the outside of the mask is contaminated, the fingers that touch it are contaminated.

The CDC also says to keep fingers out of your eyes, nose and mouth and frequent hand washing is one of the three guidelines to prevent COVID-19 infection. Hand washing is easy for anyone to accomplish. Generally, there are sinks, soap, and water in every bathroom.

The guidelines of social distancing, masks, and frequent hand washing were devised as an easily available means to better protect the average person. Nothing that requires personal training is perfect. Most parents train their children to refrain from picking their nose, but children and adults still do it.

As for a disinfecting cubical that immediately and temporarily sterilizes a contaminated body; that might be wonderful for health care workers in a hospital setting. Public health policies were devised to protect the most people in the least invasive and cost-effective manner.

For John Q public driving or flying to the Capitol building to be temporarily sterilized isn’t cost effective. Even if one or more were located somewhere in Coeur d'Alene, they would not be effective preventative treatment for the population of the area. It is an embarrassment to intimate that legislators need the technology for everyone who can be squeezed into the Capitol building in a legislative session whereas hospital workers who have been in continuous legislative session for nine months aren’t mentioned.

Public health is for everyone’s benefit. I certainly agree it shouldn’t be politicized, yet under the guise of “freedom” many of our policy makers in our great state have chosen to disregard the scientific advice of the CDC and NIAID and promote gathering in unmasked groups. We are currently seeing a huge spike in our infection rate.

For car accident victims, wouldn’t it be nice to actually find an open bed in a local hospital and be treated by a physician and staff who hadn’t been working with no sleep trying to save COVID patients?

When I read a column from the chairman of the Republican Central Committee supporting Lt. Gov. McGeachin and sniping at another aspiring political candidate, I’m compelled to believe the information is so much less about science and so much more about politics.


Doug Albertson of Coeur d'Alene is a retired scientist.