Health Conditions

Coronavirus exposes the trouble of scientific unknowns

TGIF, readers.

If you missed any of our coverage for the first-ever virtual Brainstorm Health conference, look no further—we have a comprehensive roundup ready for you right here. From NBA commissioner Adam Silver to Seema Verma, the administrator of the powerful Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), to numerous Fortune 500 CEOs, it was an extraordinary meeting of minds.

It’s no surprise that the coronavirus pandemic took up a lot of the conversation. And while Americans may have started to get fatigued with the onslaught of COVID news (trust me, it’s exhausting on my end, too), there’s a very clear reason for the focus: There’s simply just so much we still don’t know.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the NIH leader who has become one of the most prominent faces in America’s response to the pandemic, highlighted some of those uncertainties today. “I have never seen a virus in which you have 20{ce8ce7cc98bffdc4302011057a79600ea02c464c5536f1477c12acdb8bd79c00} to 40{ce8ce7cc98bffdc4302011057a79600ea02c464c5536f1477c12acdb8bd79c00} of individuals who could have no symptoms at all, to individuals who get mild illness and do not need to go to a hospital, to people confined to their beds at home for weeks with multiple postviral syndromes,” he said during an International AIDS 2020 press conference this week.

Is the virus airborne, or is the bigger problem droplets from the nose and mouth which contain the virus and spread via surfaces and close contact? We still have more work to do in figuring that out, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Scientists across the globe have differing opinions and data on that very issue.

The WHO has been cautious about the issue of airborne transmission, especially outside with social distancing and masks. But updated guidance released on Thursday suggests it could be more of a concern indoors.

“There have been reported outbreaks of COVID-19 in some closed settings, such as restaurants, nightclubs, places of worship or places of work where people may be shouting, talking, or singing,” wrote the agency. “In these outbreaks, aerosol transmission, particularly in these indoor locations where there are crowded and inadequately ventilated spaces where infected persons spend long periods of time with others, cannot be ruled out.”

The WHO went on to add that more studies are urgently needed about how coronavirus transmission works.

For now it still appears that close and insulated contact, as well as droplets which may collect on surfaces, are still the major problem. But the fact of the matter is that it will take significantly more time to understand this pathogen’s full nature.

Read on for the day’s news, and have a wonderful weekend.

Sy Mukherjee
[email protected]

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