Remember the god old days when the first thing most people said to you entering a building was “hello” and not “I need to take your temperature”?
The odds are increasing with each passing week that wearing face masks and other social distancing protocols will be the new norm for a long time.
It is also apparent that government guidance is still evolving and is far from perfect.
Getting a COVID-19 test if you are healthy as the San Joaquin County Health Department recommend if we essentially want to dilute the positive infection rate enough to allow more re-openings to occur is not an easy task. Many places that test still say no to healthy people.
And there is also a question whether the government bean counters when it comes to COVID-19 testing are using all available data collected to paint an accurate picture of infection rates.
Since mid-June the American Red Cross has been testing blood, plasma, and platelet donors for COVID-19 antibodies. The test is not to see if donors have COVID-19 but rather if they have antibodies formed to fight COVID-19 that is the direct result of having been infected and likely never showing symptoms.
If the antibodies show up those blood products may be rerouted to help COVID-19 patients fight the infection.
There is little doubt the Red Cross has perfected its antibody testing to a point it is virtually ironclad for decades to assure the integrity of the nation’s blood supply. Platelets, as an example, have a shelf life of five days. That means the Red Cross testing has to be accurate and quick.
I donate platelets every two weeks. That means except for a month and half after they had reached the limit for taking my plasma that they do in tandem with harvesting platelets, I have given platelets four times since the Red Cross started testing for COVID-19 antibodies. Whole blood donors can only give every 56 days but on any given day there are thousands upon thousands of people donating blood in California that are tested for the antibody.
Yet from inquires with the California Department of Health none of the Red Cross antibody testing data is used to determine a county’s infection or non-infection rates when it comes to COVID-19.
I get it doesn’t test me to see if I currently have COVID-19 but it does determine if I had it and am currently producing antibodies or if I’ve never had the coronavirus.
Why this data isn’t used to determine infection rates is borderline bizarre given the fact there is data that shows you can get re-infected plus there is nothing that assures someone who tested positive won’t get COVID-19 in the future.
Yet the state is relying on positive and negative COVID-19 based on each resident getting tested just once to determine re-opening policies. The San Joaquin County case count of 19,841 on Monday represents all positive cases within the county since March. The number of recovered cases is not based on a second test. Instead, either 14 days has passed since a COVID-19 symptom appeared or in those that are asymptotic 14 days has passed since the diagnostic test.
That means the number of people infected in San Joaquin County — 1,185 as of Monday as that is the number you get after subtracting the recovered number from the overall case number — is not an exact science.
It is closer to be an educated guess which honestly is probably the best we can hope for in a rapidly evolving situation.
Testing someone for COVID-19 antibodies while not a coronavirus positivity test would seem to be reasonable data to include as at the minimum as it shows someone had the coronavirus and has recovered or if they have no traces of antibodies are highly likely not to have contracted COVID-19.
Keep in mind you cannot get a coronavirus from blood transfusions. That said antibodies to fight COVID-19 can show up in donated blood.
Also realistically you would need to test everyone on a constant basis to get a fully accurate snapshot.
Still given the faith placed on the 14 day stretch to put a positive case in the recovered column you would think antibody testing donated blood for COVID-19 antibodies would be included in the daily statistical count.
As odd as it might seem a case can be made that the daily testing infection rate data used to guide re-opening is not a sound way to determine the level of economic reopening the state is allowing or whether it is even safe to base it on such data.
Which brings us to the one thing that we know will reduce the spread of viruses spread basically by breathing. Masks do slowdown the spread by reducing the number of people that gets infected.
As much posturing is going on now about the coming twine-epidemic of flu and the coronavirus, the one thing that isn’t being stressed enough is the antidotal evidence that masks reduce flu cases. That means those dismissing COVID-19 as simply being like the flu should be willing to accept the wearing of masks and social distancing. It works with colds and flu so it should work to a degree with COVID-19.
We put a lot of stock in processes that guide decision making and whether they are effective. You could probably shoot endless holes in how California is using data to reopen or to close down business and activities regardless of your views of COVID-19.
But you’d have a hard timer arguing that masks and social distancing doesn’t help reduce the spread of respiratory viruses.
It is why maybe, just maybe, a Hong Kong-style crackdown on those who ignore mask rules by police actively issuing tickets might be a better way than relying on testing numbers to drive guidance.
Of course in order to issue tickets for not complying with mask rules the state and/or local jurisdictions would need to drop the guidance crap and have legislative bodies pass mandated mask laws for specific conditions that are backed up with fines so there is no second guessing orders of the governor.
Such mask laws can have a 90-day sunset clause and be renewed if they have to be.
It should be clear by now we can color all the levels of response to COVID-19 any color we want but returning to the days where having your temperature taken trumps a greeting as you enter a building will take close to universal compliance with mask rules and other social distancing guidelines.