To help our readers keep themselves and their loved ones safe, the News Messenger asked Dr. Richard Wallace, Chairman of the Department of Microbiology, Chief of Infectious Diseases and Professor of Medicine and Microbiology at UT Health East Texas, to talk about ways that people can navigate a world where COVID-19 is still a risk.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has acknowledged that it is mixing the results of two different kinds of tests in the agency’s tally of testing for the coronavirus, raising concerns among some scientists that it could be creating an inaccurate picture of the state of the pandemic in the United States.
The CDC combines the results of genetic tests that spot people who are actively infected, mostly by using a process known as polymerase chain reaction, or PCR, with results from another, known as serology testing, which looks for antibodies in people’s blood. Antibody testing is used to identify people who were previously infected.
Jennifer Nuzzo, an epidemiologist at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, expressed concern that adding the two types of tests together could leave the impression that more testing of active cases had been conducted than was actually the case.
JHARRIS: TEST REVIEW 101:
I. ANTIGEN OR GENETIC OR EARLY TEST THAT SHOWS IF YOU HAVE COVID 19 VIRUS IN YOUR BODY. THIS TEST CAN BECOME POSITIVE A FEW DAYS BEFORE YOU GET SYMPTOMS AND MEANS YOU ARE CONTAGIOUS TO OTHERS. THIS EARLY TEST CAN BE PERFORMED ON SALIVA OR NASAL SWABS. THIS ACUTE TEST BECOMES NEGATIVE AS YOU PRODUCED ANTIBODIES TO FIGHT THE INFECTION AND AFTER A COUPLE OF WEEKS BECOMES NEGATIVE.
II. ANTIBODY TEST IS USUALLY A BLOOD TEST AND BECOMES POSITIVE ABOUT 2 WEEKS AFTER YOU BECOME INFECTED. THIS TEST INDICATES THAT YOU HAVE HAD THE INFECTION AND MAY HAVE SOME IMMUNITY. NO ONE YET KNOWS HOW LONG THESE ANTIBODIES (NOT “ANTIBIOTICS”) REMAIN IN THE BLOOD. YOU ARE PROBABLY NOT CONTAGIOUS TO OTHERS NOW, PROBABLY. MAYBE NOT.
THE PROBLEM WITH INTERPRETING AND REPORTING THE RESULTS OF THE TWO DIFFERENT TYPE TESTS ARE THAT THE AGENCIES MIX THE QUANTITIES OF TESTS ADMINISTERED AS WELL AS THE RESULTS TOGETHER RENDERING THE REPORTS OF THE RESULTS SEMI-WORTHLESS. THIS IS LIKE MIXING APPLES AND ORANGES. THE TESTS MEASURE TWO DIFFERENT THINGS AND LUMPING THE RESULTS TOGETHER DRIVES NUMBER CRUNCHERS CRAZY.
THIS GRAPH IS PRETTY SIMPLE AND SCARY. Thank you Edmund Wood
Northeast Texas case counts as of Saturday Morning
The total of reported cases of COVID-19 by Friday evening in Northeast Texas was at least 2,403, up from 2,349 a day earlier. Across the region, 108 total deaths had been reported Friday, which was unchanged from Thursday. Here’s a look at totals by county Friday and changes from Thursday:
Anderson: 66 (+2)
Angelina: 175 (+3), 2 deaths
Bowie: 154 (-22), 11 deaths
Camp: 39 (+7)
Cherokee: 44, 2 deaths
Franklin: 9 (+1)
Gregg: 195 (+8), 4 deaths
Harrison: 230 (+2), 23 deaths
Henderson: 55 (+3)
Lamar: 133 (+5), 9 deaths
Morris: 17 (+2)
Nacogdoches: 255 (+11), 17 deaths
Panola: 188, 21 deaths
Red River: 44 (+2), 4 deaths
Rusk: 44, 2 deaths
Shelby: 183, 5 deaths
Smith: 198, 4 deaths
Titus: 248 (+28 from Thursday), 2 deaths
Van Zandt: 26 (+1), 1 death
Wood: 23 (+1), 1 death
Totals: 2,403 and 108 deaths
Sources: Texas Department of State Health Services, Northeast Texas Public Health District, local officials
THIS COUNT A A GREAT FEATURE FROM THE TYLER NEWSPAPER
The largest clusters of virus cling to the heaviest droplets, which behave like falling leaves — swirling and dancing for a moment or two before carpeting the ground. But as we talk, sing, shout, and laugh, we also spray a fine mist that remains aloft for hours, mixing promiscuously with the exhalations of others. We can’t see these traveling fogs, but sometimes we can smell them. A perfume that lingers in an elevator, a plume of cigarette smoke, the odor of frying fish wafting through a vent — these olfactory markers track the course of particulate-laden clouds. It’s not yet clear whether the tiniest, aerosolized droplets can carry a big-enough payload of coronavirus molecules to make someone sick, but it’s a good idea to act as if they do.
“If you’re just recirculating infected air, you’re just continuously adding particles to that room. A closed system is probably a nightmare.”
A study of a restaurant in Guangzhou, China, in January, raises the possibility that a poorly functioning ventilation system can make things worse. An AC unit apparently focused one diner’s viral fumes in a beam of cool air and shot it across three adjacent tables, sickening ten people and leaving the rest of the restaurant untouched. The lesson from that incident is clear but unhelpful: If you sense a strong indoor breeze, get out of the way or at least stay upstream of anyone who might be infected.
Mechanical ventilation systems are expensive, bulky, and unreliable, sucking up energy and spewing bad air back outside for other systems to inhale. Natural ventilation is easier on the planet, potentially cheaper to run, and less liable to sicken the people who work inside.
The ultimate goal is to allow us all to breathe without thinking about it again — to have faith that professionals have done their best to neutralize threats none of us can see and most of us can’t even measure. “How do you visualize the invisible?” Murphy says. “That’s one of the core challenges of design.”
COLLINS PUN FOR THE DAY:No matter how much you push the envelope,
it’ll still be stationery.
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