Expert Pitch
University of California San Diego Health

As Businesses Reopen, It’s Crucial We Wear Masks, Safely Distance

In a perspective piece published today in the journal Science, UC San Diego experts describe in detail the growing evidence that SARS-CoV-2, the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19, can be spread by asymptomatic people via aerosols — a reality that deeply underscores the ongoing importance of regular widespread testing, wearing masks and physical distancing to reduce the spread of the virus.

HIGHLIGHTS

Asymptomatic people spread virus in aerosols. Mounting evidence suggests that SARS-CoV-2 is silently spread in aerosols exhaled by contagious infected persons displaying no symptoms. A recent study estimated that a single minute of loud speaking might generate between 1,000-100,000 virion-containing aerosols or virus particles suspended in the air. Due to their small size, aerosols can remain airborne for hours and travel long distances. Small, virus-containing aerosols can also penetrate more deeply into the lungs, bypassing the immune system, which can lead to more severe cases of COVID-19.

Traditional measures target droplets, not buoyant aerosols. Traditional respiratory disease controls based on physical spacing are designed to reduce transmission from large droplets produced in the sneezes and coughs of infected individuals. However, a large fraction of the spread of COVID-19 appears to be occurring through airborne transmission of smaller aerosols produced by infected but asymptomatic individuals during breathing and speaking. Droplets settle to surfaces within six feet and spread via contact. Contrarily, infectious aerosols can accumulate in indoor, uncirculating air for hours, where they can be more easily inhaled deeply into the lungs.

Infectious aerosols can travel further than six feet. Given how little is known about the airborne behavior of infectious aerosols, it’s difficult to define a safe distance for physical distancing. However, a six-foot perimeter indoors without a mask is likely not enough if an asymptomatic person is actively shedding the virus, researchers say. A good comparison is exhaled smoke: The distance from a smoker at which you can smell smoke indicates the distance at which you might also inhale infectious aerosols. Many factors affect aerosol spread indoors and outdoors, such as air flow and ventilation, number of people in the space, time of exposure, sunlight, temperature and humidity.

Masks are essential. Properly fitted masks provide a critical physical barrier, reducing the number of infectious viruses in the exhaled breath of asymptomatic individuals. Countries that have been most effective in limiting the spread of COVID-19 have implemented universal masking. For example, Taiwan (population 24 million), where masking orders were universal and quickly enacted, did not implement a lockdown during the pandemic; yet it maintained a low incidence of approximately 441 cases and 7 deaths. By contrast, New York State (population 20 million) has had more than 353,000 COVID-19 cases and 24,000 deaths.

EXPERTS AVAILABLE FOR INTERVIEWS

Kimberly Prather, PhD, Distinguished Chair in Atmospheric Chemistry at UC San Diego’s Scripps Institution of Oceanography and Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry. Her group performs studies worldwide determining the airborne transport, sources and reactivity of aerosols. Her research group is currently investigating which viruses, including SARS-CoV-2, can be detected outdoors in coastal sewage and the air along the San Diego coast. She is the founding director of the National Science Foundation Center for Aerosol Impacts on Chemistry of the Environment (CAICE), which focuses on understanding the impacts of ocean microbes on climate, air quality and human health.

Robert Schooley, MD, professor of medicine at UC San Diego School of Medicine and an infectious disease expert. His research interests are in global health and the diagnosis, pathogenesis and therapy of viral infections. He co-leads the UC San Diego Return to Learn Program, an effort to broadly test students, faculty and staff on campus on a recurring basis for presence of SARS-CoV-2. This program, which includes plans for contact tracing and isolation housing for on-campus resident students who test positive for the virus, is intended to better position UC San Diego to resume in-person activities when fall classes begin in September 2020.

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Released: 10-Jul-2020 3:05 PM EDT
Simple blood test can predict severity of COVID-19 for some patients
University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston

An early prognosis factor that could be a key to determining who will suffer greater effects from COVID-19, and help clinicians better prepare for these patients, may have been uncovered by researchers at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth). Results of the findings were published today in the International Journal of Laboratory Hematology.

Released: 10-Jul-2020 12:50 PM EDT
Genetic ‘fingerprints’ of first COVID-19 cases help manage pandemic
University of Sydney

A new study published in the world-leading journal Nature Medicine, reveals how genomic sequencing and mathematical modelling gave important insights into the ‘parentage’ of cases and likely spread of the disease in New South Wales.

Released: 10-Jul-2020 12:35 PM EDT
Our itch to share helps spread COVID-19 misinformation
Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)

To stay current about the Covid-19 pandemic, people need to process health information when they read the news. Inevitably, that means people will be exposed to health misinformation, too, in the form of false content, often found online, about the illness.

Newswise: Pandemic Inspires Framework for Enhanced Care in Nursing Homes
Released: 10-Jul-2020 12:25 PM EDT
Pandemic Inspires Framework for Enhanced Care in Nursing Homes
University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing

As of May 2020, nursing home residents account for a staggering one-third of the more than 80,000 deaths due to COVID-19 in the U.S. This pandemic has resulted in unprecedented threats—like reduced access to resources needed to contain and eliminate the spread of the virus—to achieving and sustaining care quality even in the best nursing homes. Active engagement of nursing home leaders in developing solutions responsive to the unprecedented threats to quality standards of care delivery is required.

Newswise: General Electric Healthcare Chooses UH to Clinically 
Evaluate First-of-its-kind Imaging System
Released: 10-Jul-2020 12:15 PM EDT
General Electric Healthcare Chooses UH to Clinically Evaluate First-of-its-kind Imaging System
University Hospitals Cleveland Medical Center

University Hospitals Cleveland Medical Center physicians completed evaluation for the GE Healthcare Critical Care Suite, and the technology is now in daily clinical practice – flagging between seven to 15 collapsed lungs per day within the hospital. No one on the team could have predicted the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, but this technology and future research with GEHC may enhance the capability to improve care for COVID-19 patients in the ICU. Critical Care Suite is now assisting in COVID and non-COVID patient care as the AMX 240 travels to intensive care units within the hospital.

Released: 10-Jul-2020 11:50 AM EDT
COVID-19 Can Be Transmitted in the Womb, Reports Pediatric Infectious Disease Journal
Wolters Kluwer Health: Lippincott Williams and Wilkins

A baby girl in Texas – born prematurely to a mother with COVID-19 – is the strongest evidence to date that intrauterine (in the womb) transmission of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) can occur, reports The Pediatric Infectious Disease Journal, the official journal of The European Society for Paediatric Infectious Diseases. The journal is published in the Lippincott portfolio by Wolters Kluwer.

Released: 10-Jul-2020 9:45 AM EDT
How COVID-19 Shifted Inpatient Imaging Utilization
Harvey L. Neiman Health Policy Institute

As medical resources shifted away from elective and non-urgent procedures toward emergent and critical care of COVID-19 patients, departments were forced to reconfigure their personnel and resources. In particular, many Radiology practices rescheduled non-urgent and routine imaging according to recommendations from the American College of Radiology (ACR). This new Harvey L. Neiman Health Policy Institute study, published online in the Journal of American College of Radiology (JACR), evaluates the change in the inpatient imaging volumes and composition mix during the COVID-19 pandemic within a large healthcare system.

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Embargo will expire: 12-Jul-2020 7:00 PM EDT Released to reporters: 10-Jul-2020 9:00 AM EDT

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Released: 10-Jul-2020 9:00 AM EDT
Team is first in Texas to investigate convalescent plasma for prevention of COVID-19 onset and progression
University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston

A research team is the first in Texas to investigate whether plasma from COVID-19 survivors can be used in outpatient settings to prevent the onset and progression of the virus in two new clinical trials at UTHealth.


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