March 28, 2020 Liz Borkowski, MPH 4Comment

Journalists help us make sense of the horrors, challenges, and hope as the COVID-19 pandemic’s toll on the U.S. grows. Here are pieces I’ve found useful.

Trump administration

Worker Health & Safety 

Reproductive Health


Looking ahead

4 thoughts on “Worth reading: Coronavirus hits the U.S.

  1. There seem to be some pretty bright minds here, so I had some thoughts and questions about how coronavirus might spread by touching surfaces.

    I’ve pointed this out elsewhere on this site wrt flu, and that is that probably something like twenty-five to fifty percent of the population (maybe more) will at various times of the day actually insert their fingers to or into their mouths, and essentially grab saliva onto their fingers whereupon they subsequently deposit to all the surfaces they touch.

    Others who happen to touch those surfaces then pick up that saliva on their fingers, which may then wind up into their mouths, noses or eyes. If that saliva contained infectious pathogens like flu or coronavirus, then I suspect the receiving person also risks illness, correct?

    I am afraid hardly a soul out there is noticing this, and because of that, nobody is paying any real attention. This mode of transfer generally happens where food is involved. A cook for instance, rather than using a napkin of the sink, will clean up excess food that gets on his or her fingers by licking or smacking it off. A food server may do this too. Patrons, guests, etc, in places where ever there is dining- especially with things like ribs, sandwiches or finger foods- will also insert their fingers to or into their mouths to clean up excess food.

    Just yesterday, there was a commercial on the Hallmark channel for I think Physicians Medical Insurance where the main character is cooking something and as he is talking to the camera, he inserts his thumb or index finger into the mouth. And right in the middle of this coronavirus crisis. Or just look at casual crowd photos at anyway sports game (not the jump up and cheering photos) and you will easily notice someone with a finger inserted into the mouth. Typical is a person with all five fingers flared out and the thumb inserted squarely into the mouth.

    So we might wash our hands thoroughly before we eat, but what’s the point if we are going to simply spread our saliva everywhere afterwards? Let me suggest that our “finger licking good” culture is spreading disease in a tactile form, which I suspect complements the airborne/respiratory method very effectively.

    So is this a problem or not? And if it is a problem, why isn’t ANYBODY bringing this to national attention?

  2. Yes, the advice to avoid touching our faces definitely includes not putting our fingers in our mouths! Restaurant workers are generally well trained to avoid this, but people preparing food at homes may need to break the habit. And it would be helpful for commercials to model good hygiene.

  3. Thanks Liz! So if you don’t mind, let me ask a few more questions for you or anyone else who cares to chime in:

    It seems that something like 99% of the medical advice in the national narrative stresses that these viruses are believed to be spread by a contagious person who coughs or sneezes directly onto someone else who inhales those droplets and aerosols. And in much rarer cases it seems, someone might inadvertently inhale aerosols that remain in the air even from talking, singing or breathing, or they might touch surfaces where those droplets landed, then their faces.

    So let me ask you: How serious is tactile transmission from deposited saliva? I don’t see this stressed or mentioned in our national narrative at all, so maybe it’s nothing to worry about that a substantial portion of our population manages to take their own saliva and deposit it to all surfaces they touch?

    If not so serious, then all we really need to worry about is social distancing, perhaps face masks (to stop the spread of sneezing or coughing droplets by those who are sick) and regular handwashing.

    On the other hand, if tactile saliva is a serious mode of pathogen transmission, and if society were to be alerted to a major degree to take appropriate measures (like keeping your fingers out of your mouths when you serve food or eat, and at other times), maybe we could curtail subsequent recurrences of the coronavirus. Or even cut down on the spread of flu in the future.

    I really think we should explore all angles, yet as far as I know we’re either overlooking this one, or it doesn’t matter?

    What do you think?

  4. Dr. Fauci in an interview yesterday again advised to avoid shaking hands to prevent virus spread, and in fact he said this should be a new norm forever in his opinion, which may prevent future spread of disease, even the flu. Agreed!

    But how exactly are those viruses getting onto our hands?

    It just seems to me that if half our population, despite cleaning hands, will insert fingers to or into their own mouths every day when eating, they will be then transporting their saliva on their fingers to share on door knobs, rails, etc, or with whomever they shake hands.

    Of course, when a person sneezes or coughs directly onto a doorknob or handrail, we could pick up some viruses that way, but isn’t direct transport of saliva from the mouth via the fingers of one person to give to another by touching surfaces, or handshakes, a much more effective mechanism?

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