Fighting COVID-19 is like ‘Whack-A-Mole’, writes writer Ed Yong: Shots

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A worker cleans up an area along the Las Vegas Strip that is now devoid of the usual crowds, with casinos and many other closed businesses.

John Locher / AP

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John Locher / AP

A worker cleans up an area along the Las Vegas Strip that is now devoid of the usual crowds, with casinos and many other closed businesses.

John Locher / AP

Two years ago, the science writer Ed Yong wrote an article for Atlantic in which he warned that a new global pandemic was inevitable – and that the world would not be prepared for it when it arrived. Now, with the COVID-19 outbreak, much of what Yong warned about in his reports has come true.

Yong says scientists are still working on understanding how the new coronavirus travels through the air. His last article for Atlantic wonders if people other than health care workers and other front line workers should wear some kind of mask to help prevent the spread of coronavirus.

Yong notes that there are two ways in which respiratory viruses generally travel through the air: as droplets of fluid and as spots of evaporated fluid called “aerosols”.

Yong describes aerosols as “distant” and “durable” viral spots. “There is growing evidence that aerosol transmission – what people have traditionally described as” airborne “- applies, to some extent, to the new coronavirus,” he said.

He adds that it is not yet clear whether living infectious viral particles remain in the air where the infected were: “This is the crucial thing to know,” he said. “And then, really, and most importantly, are there enough of these viral particles to actually trigger an infection?” We don’t know the answer yet. “

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