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posted by Fnord666 on Tuesday March 24 2020, @04:54AM   Printer-friendly
from the lock-em-down dept.

Politicians won't admit it yet, but it's time to prepare—physically and psychologically—for a sudden stop to all life outside your home.

[...] Whether you are reading this in your living room in Vancouver, office in London, or on a subway in New York City, you need to think hard, and fast, about two crucial questions: Where, and with whom, do you want to spend the next six to 12 weeks of your life, hunkered down for the epidemic duration? And what can you do to make that place as safe as possible for yourself and those around you?

Your time to answer those questions is very short—a few days, at most. Airports will close, trains will shut down, gasoline supplies may dwindle, and roadblocks may be set up. Nations are closing their borders, and as the numbers of sick rise, towns, suburbs, even entire counties will try to shut the virus out by blocking travel. Wherever you decide to settle down this week is likely to be the place in which you will be stuck for the duration of your epidemic.

To appreciate what lies ahead for the United States, Canada, Mexico, and the United Kingdom, pay heed to Italy, France, and Germany. The United States, for example, is currently tracking exactly where Italy was about 10 days ago. France and Germany, which track two to five days ahead of the United States, are now revving up measures akin to those taken by Italy, including lockdowns on movement and social activity. In a matter of days, the United States will follow suit.

[...] Once tough location decisions have been made, the household must be readied for a long siege. While panic-buying has led to stockpiles of toilet paper and hand sanitizer, getting through eight months of confinement with others will require a great deal more, both physically and psychologically. This is especially true for households that span generations.

Long-term confinement that includes children undergoing remote schooling and adults trying to work requires designated spaces for each individual, a powerful Internet signal and Wi-Fi router, and a great deal of shared patience. Everybody in the household must understand how the coronavirus is spread, and what steps each should follow to eliminate their personal risk of passing infection to others in the home.

The virus is transmitted by droplets and fomites[*]—it isn't like measles, capable of drifting about in the air for hours. It dehydrates quickly if not inside water, mucus, or fomite droplets. The size of the droplets may be far below what the human eye can see, but they are gravity-sensitive, and will fall from an individual's mouth down, eventually, to the nearest lower surface—table, desk, floor. You do not need to clean upward.

However, a newly published study, backed by the National Institutes of Health, found that the virus survives in "aerosols for up to three hours, up to four hours on copper, up to 24 hours on cardboard and up to two to three days on plastic and stainless steel." This means an uncleaned surface can pose a risk to members of the household for a very long time—a doorknob, tabletop, kitchen counter or stainless steel utensil.

[*] Wikipedia entry on fomites:

any inanimate object that, when contaminated with or exposed to infectious agents (such as pathogenic bacteria, viruses or fungi), can transfer disease to a new host.

[...] In addition to objects in hospital settings, other common fomites for humans are cups, spoons, pencils, bath faucet handles, toilet flush levers, door knobs, light switches, handrails, elevator buttons, television remote controls, pens, touch screens, common-use phones, keyboards, and computer mice, coffeepot handles, countertops, and any other items that may be frequently touched by different people and infrequently cleaned.

Researchers have discovered that smooth (non-porous) surfaces like door knobs transmit bacteria and viruses better than porous materials like paper money because porous, especially fibrous, materials absorb and trap the contagion, making it harder to contract through simple touch. Nonetheless, fomites may include soiled clothes, towels, linens, handkerchiefs, and surgical dressings


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  • (Score: 3, Interesting) by HiThere on Tuesday March 24 2020, @06:51PM (2 children)

    by HiThere (866) on Tuesday March 24 2020, @06:51PM (#975141) Journal

    Your point is valid, but overstated...at least in the long term.

    OTOH, the virus keeps mutating. Iceland reported 40 variant strains from three European sources. Some of them may be (eventually) considerably more fatal than this one.

    P.S.: Don't expect this to ever go away. Expect it to be as persistent as influenza. But it's something that we'll adjust to. ("Adapt to" implies immunity, and that's probably wrong. "Adjust to" is a "life goes on, even if not mine" kind of attitude. Humanity will survive this without much problem, but people may have a very hard time, and many people won't.)

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  • (Score: 2) by JoeMerchant on Tuesday March 24 2020, @11:13PM (1 child)

    by JoeMerchant (3937) on Tuesday March 24 2020, @11:13PM (#975247)

    Some of them may be (eventually) considerably more fatal than this one.

    That is always a possibility, but please do consider the fact that it takes roughly 100 years for random chance to come up with a virus as deadly as COVID19 in the first place. Most mutations are going to be less harmful, not more. It is starting from a "bad place" and will be easier to mutate to a worse one than starting from a less harmful virus, but still - odds are low that it will become the next Black Death, and even if it does - we've got far better responses in place today - overall mortality might be higher than in the Black Death, but mortality rates will be much lower, even in the less developed corners of the modern world.

    Please don't take me to be saying COVID19 isn't serious - 7 million people in the US have a lot to fear from it, and I want to do what I can to help them, and the 700 million others around the world, get through this as best they can. On the other hand, if we destroy (or just damage) the functional aspects of modern society in the process of trying to protect 2% of the population, we're going to end up hurting more than we help.

    To be an effective care giver, you first have to take care of yourself.

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    • (Score: 2) by HiThere on Thursday March 26 2020, @01:44AM

      by HiThere (866) on Thursday March 26 2020, @01:44AM (#975669) Journal

      No. There have been at least predecessor two viruses within the last couple of decades that were more fatal. They just didn't spread as well. The two I'm thinking of are SARS and Ebola. SARS was of the same family as COVID-19, and, in fact, COVID-19 looks like a cross between SARS and one of the other corona viruses. And then there's the AIDS virus. One of the reasons that one's so hard to control is it keeps mutating away from every form of suppression.

      Now some virologists have said that the COVID-19 virus mutates relatively slowly. I suppose it depends on what you're comparing it to. Or perhaps they're just being hopeful. It's an RNA virus that doesn't have much error correction in it's copying, so it mutates relatively rapidly. Perhaps it's at a local optimum, though, and more effective mutations are difficult. Whatever, there are already at least two strains circulating, so it's not mutating THAT slowly. So far, however, the evidence seems to be that immunity to one will yield immunity to the other. This is not something one can count on remaining true.

      Based on my current knowledge, such as it is, we can expect COVID to make repeat appearances frequently, though quite possibly not as frequently as influenza. And given it's long asymptomatic period of infection, and the large number of potential hosts, there will be minimal pressure on it to evolve to be less deadly. There will be pressure on it to develop a longer asymptomatic period, as long as that doesn't interfere with it being contagious.

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