COVID-19 protocols have become a cult-like belief system for some over the past year.
Some who adhere to everything the “science” tells us point their fingers at others for refusing to wear masks, chastise those who refuse to get vaccinated and preach against sizable gatherings.
Still, their “sacred” guidelines — delivered by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as well as the World Health Organization — that have proven to be malleable in the past are reaffirming that cult-like notion yet again after major segments of both websites experienced slight tweaks in the past few weeks.
The New York Times reported on the changes on May 7, informing readers of the previous WHO guidance provided, that “‘current evidence suggests that the main way the virus spreads is by respiratory droplets’ — which are expelled from the mouth and quickly fall to the ground — ‘among people who are in close contact with each other.'”
The agency’s quiet revision to its website on April 30, however, pointed to a different method of transmission: aerosols, as well as droplets.
The Times’ Zeynep Tufekci explained that while the “droplets” referred to by the WHO fall to the ground quickly after being expelled from the body, aerosols can travel further, meaning well-ventilated areas are favored for preventing the spread of the virus.
The WHO’s updated information page now states, “The virus can also spread in poorly ventilated and/or crowded indoor settings, where people tend to spend longer periods of time. This is because aerosols remain suspended in the air or travel farther than 1 metre (long-range).”
As The Times noted, the agency did not hold a news conference or publicly announce the change to its site.
Seemingly following in the WHO’s footsteps, on May 7, the CDC issued an update to its “How COVID-19 Spreads” web page, which also paints a somewhat different picture of COVID transmission.
Just two days prior to the change, the website also implied the virus was most commonly transmitted during close contact by way of respiratory droplets.
“Infections occur mainly through exposure to respiratory droplets when a person is in close contact with someone who has COVID-19,” the website stated on May 5, according to internet archive tool the Wayback Machine.
It is important to note that while the CDC did mention “[s]ome infections can be spread by exposure to virus in small droplets and particles that can linger in the air for minutes to hours,” seemingly referring to aerosols, this was not initially listed as the main method of transmission.
In its May 7 revision, the CDC stated, “COVID-19 spreads when an infected person breathes out droplets and very small particles that contain the virus.”
Yes, the virus is still believed to be contracted at close proximity to infected individuals, but now the CDC appears to be adopting the idea that aerosols play a much more central role in the spread of COVID than it implied in its prior guidance.
Again, the revision to the CDC website was made fairly quietly — there was no news conference or announcement otherwise provided, according to The Times.
Why is this change so significant to understanding how COVID-19 is spread?
If this information had been provided from the get-go of COVID infections and restrictions, we could have better understood how safe certain situations were and done away with meaningless isolations.
“If the importance of aerosol transmission had been accepted early, we would have been told from the beginning that it was much safer outdoors, where these small particles disperse more easily, as long as you avoid close, prolonged contact with others,” Tufekci wrote.
“We would have tried to make sure indoor spaces were well ventilated, with air filtered as necessary. Instead of blanket rules on gatherings, we would have targeted conditions that can produce superspreading events: people in poorly ventilated indoor spaces, especially if engaged over time in activities that increase aerosol production, like shouting and singing,” she added.
“We would have started using masks more quickly, and we would have paid more attention to their fit, too. And we would have been less obsessed with cleaning surfaces.”
Though we can expect protocols to change as new information develops, the CDC and WHO’s tendency to behave as the ultimate authorities on all aspects of the coronavirus should lead them to ensure they uncover such crucial knowledge before an entire year passes.
Many who adhere to the CDC’s guidelines for pandemic safety do so devoutly, wearing masks, sanitizing everything and panicking when others come too close.
However, the updates to these health organizations’ websites prove that we cannot place much stock in what “the science” tells us if that science is constantly changing.
We can acknowledge what the most recent science says and we can follow the guidelines born from the latest research if we wish, but this virus has proven that little is concrete.
Yes, we know the virus is spread between people at close distances. Other viruses exhibit such behavior as well.
But we all remember Dr. Anthony Fauci’s flip-flop on masks from his statement in March of last year during the Trump administration and his flawed expectation that Texas would become a graveyard after abandoning its mask mandate this March.
The “authorities” on the virus should be more trustworthy and not change their stories, but we should remember that no scientist is safe from fallacy.
People shouldn’t be mandated to exercise the precautions the authorities believe are essential to “slowing the spread,” but instead have a right to know accurate information regarding the virus so they can exercise their own precautions.
Having the right information goes a long way, especially in circumstances like these.
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