#COVIDIsAirborne #BringBackMasks Trend, Questioning CDC Director’s Tweet on Covid-19 Precautions

They say the hindsight is 2020. But what happened with the US Covid-19 response in 2022 seems to show a lack of foresight. Wasn’t it in 2020 that scientific studies showed that the Covid-19 coronavirus can spread beyond six feet via small respiratory droplets and wearing face masks in turn can reduce transmission of the virus ? So why has #COVIDIsAirborne been trending again on Twitter over the past week? That’s because people on Twitter are wondering why the use of face masks and air purification have been noticeably absent from the Biden administration’s messaging on Covid-19 precautions recently.

For example, in mid-September, US President Joe Biden claimed that “the pandemic is over”, adding “If you notice that no one is wearing a mask”. As I covered at the time for Forbes, this claim goes completely against science because no real scientific organization has declared the end of the pandemic. Then there was the October 21 tweet from the Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Rochelle Walensky, MD, MPH, about precautions against respiratory viruses such as influenza virus, respiratory virus syncytial (RSV) and the Covid-19 coronavirus. that didn’t sound “airy” enough to a number of people on Twitter:

As you can see, Lucky Tran, Ph.D., organizer of the Walk for Science and science communicator at Columbia University, pointed out that Walensky’s tweet didn’t even mention two key precautions against airborne viruses: the use of a face mask and air ventilation/filtration. Although getting an updated Covid-19 vaccine will help reduce your risk of more serious Covid-19 outcomes, it will not prevent the virus from entering your nose or mouth. The only way the Covid-19 vaccine could possibly prevent the virus from entering your nose is to push multiple syringes of vaccine up your nostrils, which you shouldn’t do for safety and aesthetic reasons.

Likewise, it is important to practice good hand hygiene as all three viruses can be transmitted through contaminated hands. But clean hands aren’t going to stop an airborne virus from getting into your nose or mouth either. Unless you constantly cover your nose and mouth with your hands at all times, which you shouldn’t either because your hands aren’t permeable and it’s important to be able to breathe. Also, you can’t scroll through social media or take selfies if you constantly use your hands to cover your nose and mouth.

What if you used your hands to chase the virus away? Well, on Twitter, @tmcdonnell4 asked “how many hours should I wash my hands to remove respiratory viruses from the air”:

The answer is that no amount of hours will help you if your goal is to clear viruses from the air with your hands. Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) is not like a giant cat hair floating in the air. No amount of hands, fanning, or jazz hands will be enough to completely ward off the virus from you.

So, has SARS-CoV-2 somehow lost its ability to fly? Did he drink the opposite of Red Bull? No. This does not seem to be the case. It would be very, very, very unusual for a virus to lose such an ability. On October 26, Ashish K. Jha, MD, MPH, the Biden administration’s COVID-19 response coordinator at the White House, said, “Covid, which is purely airborne,” at a press conference. at the White House, while José-Luis Jimenez, PhDprofessor emeritus of chemistry at the University of Colorado tweeted:

Now, calling the Covid-19 coronavirus “purely airborne” isn’t really correct either. Studies have shown that the virus can also persist on different surfaces for some time, as i covered for Forbes. And you probably wouldn’t ask someone with Covid-19, “hey do you have a trumpet or a Hannibal Lechter mask you just used that I could lick?” To call SARS-CoV-2 purely airborne would be like calling a star basketball player a pure dribbler.

Either way, Jha seemed to recognize the airborne nature of SARS-CoV-2, which brings us back to the original question: why didn’t the Biden administration push mask use further? facial and air filtration/purification? Back on October 22, Eric Feigl-Ding, PhD, epidemiologist and leader of the COVID Risk Task Force at the New England Complex Systems Institute, tweeted “I think we need to put back the #BringBackMasks and #COVIDIsAirborne trends. Because #CovidIsNotOver”, as you can see here:

Both hashtags have indeed evolved over the past week. Author Dana Parish added #COVIDIsAirborne to her story of her trip with her dog to the vet, assuming the emoji she used was of a dog and not a human with unusually long ears :

Joy Henningsen, MDclinical assistant professor of radiology at the University of Alabama-Birmingham, used #COVIDIsAirborne to point out that others in the US beyond the Biden administration seem to avoid the word “mask” when it would seem appropriate to ‘utilize :

And @DrFiliatrault used the hashtag to forward a video from RIKEN in Japan that visualized how SARS-CoV-2 can be “airborne” without a mask:

Meanwhile, family physician Nili Kaplan-Myrth, MD, PhD, tweeted with #BringBackMasks to urge political leaders to push for face mask wearing to do something to mitigate a new surge of Covid-19 In the coming months :

And NY Warrant Masks an advocacy effort to “impose masks in public places and schools where needed and provide free masks,” the hashtag dropped while tweeting forwarding a photo of a sign that reminded people that having been vaccinated against Covid-19 alone will not give you the same kind of protection as wearing a face mask:

Remember that every Covid-19 precaution is like a slice of Swiss cheese. Everyone has their own holes. It’s generally a good idea to cover your holes by layering different Covid-19 precautions like you might layer Swiss cheese.

Therefore, it is quite surprising that the Biden administration did not mention more about wearing face masks and air filtration/purification, especially since these would help against Covid-19, RSV and the flu. Rick Bright, PhD, former Deputy Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response and Director of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA), tweeted: “Isn’t this like wearing masks, the improved ventilation and air filtration would help solve this problem. #CovidIsAirborne virus and be more effective than handwashing,” while also using the hashtag #CovidIsAirborne:

A response to Bright’s tweet above included a 2020 video of Walensky saying that SARS-CoV-2 transmission consists of “lots of aerosols.” This video came after the Trump administration spent the first half of 2020 not fully realizing or acknowledging the amount of an aerosol component of transmission of the Covid-19 coronavirus. This led to delays in implementing face mask wearing and air filtration/purification that year. Will the full recognition of this airborne component in 2022 not again be a 2020 situation?

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