Coronavirus Chronicles — Transmission, Continued

Yesterday’s post mentioned some of the instances Andy Larsen collected, of people being subjected to different levels of “viral load.” This term basically means the number of active SARS-CoV-2 organisms people tend to take on board under various circumstances. We will not steal the reporter’s thunder by relating the details about the 500 young Swiss soldiers, but the upshot was:

It seemed like the social distancing guidelines not only prevented the disease from spreading but also prevented disease severity.

And then, there were the…

[…] three coronavirus clusters in Madrid, all with similar average ages between 63 and 66 years old… The old folks who stayed socially distanced had less severe disease, even when they did get infected.

Of course none of the many instances that Larsen reports is actually a full-on scientific research study that plays by all the rules of rigorous research. Except under extraordinary circumstances, nobody is allowed go around making people sick on purpose, just to follow laboratory protocol or statistical parameters.

For the most part, all we have to work with are the kinds of facts that classically trained researchers have become used to dismissing as “anecdotal.” Meanwhile, the healers who are trying to stop the pain and death are doing the best they can with what they’ve got.

One of the truths gleaned from these patterns is, MASK = GOOD. Even some t-shirt material or a hunk of shop towel tied around the lower face can save a life, or at least prevent a lot of misery.

Pessimist or realist?

In mid-August, economist Emily Oster, of the team known as COVID Explained, told the press, “In January, we’ll be in the same position that we are in now, and kids still won’t be in school.” Why would eminent researchers from Brown, MIT, Harvard, Mass General, and other prominent institutions make such a dreary prediction?

Benjy Sarlin and Suzy Khimm reported,

Coronavirus cases are already surfacing in K-12 schools that have reopened, but the federal government is not tracking these outbreaks, and some states are not publicly reporting them, making it more difficult to determine how the virus is spreading, experts say. Scores of students and staff members have been quarantined because of potential COVID-19 exposure… But there is no official national tally of school-linked COVID-19 cases…

A handful of states were said to be tracking, but not reporting. These bureaucracies tend to tell reporters that “coronavirus data on schools was not critical to protecting the broader public.” Well, okay then! And dig it:

Each state sets its own definition for an “outbreak”…

Even among the states that have committed to sharing data, there are major gaps and inconsistencies in reporting policies…

A spokeswoman for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that the agency was not tracking school-based COVID-19 cases…

Could there be a more perfect recipe for disaster? The COVID Explained group is trying to compensate by working with the School Superintendents Association to collect and share information. One of the goals is to examine what schools with low numbers are doing or not doing, in order to develop guidelines for the rest.

Other organizations, news agencies, and even individuals are trying to fill in the gaps too. The absence of what is called “granular information” is a crucial lack for many reasons, not least because science needs to understand how younger and older children are affected differently. The journalists also quoted Annette C. Anderson of Johns Hopkins University, with another portentous quotation, and this was only a couple of weeks ago:

We’re only beginning to start understanding the transmission of COVID in children.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “What research says about the amount of coronavirus you are initially exposed to,”, 08/16/29
Source: “Coronavirus is spreading in schools, but the federal government isn’t keeping count,”, 08/17/20
Image by Jernej Furman/CC BY 2.0

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OVERWEIGHT: What Kids Say explores the obesity problem from the often-overlooked perspective of children struggling with being overweight.

About Dr. Robert A. Pretlow

Dr. Robert A. Pretlow is a pediatrician and childhood obesity specialist. He has been researching and spreading awareness on the childhood obesity epidemic in the US for more than a decade.
You can contact Dr. Pretlow at:


Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the American Society of Animal Science 2020 Conference
What’s Causing Obesity in Companion Animals and What Can We Do About It

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the World Obesity Federation 2019 Conference:
Food/Eating Addiction and the Displacement Mechanism

Dr. Pretlow’s Multi-Center Clinical Trial Kick-off Speech 2018:
Obesity: Tackling the Root Cause

Dr. Pretlow’s 2017 Workshop on
Treatment of Obesity Using the Addiction Model

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation for
TEC and UNC 2016

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the 2015 Obesity Summit in London, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s invited keynote at the 2014 European Childhood Obesity Group Congress in Salzburg, Austria.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2013 European Congress on Obesity in Liverpool, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2011 International Conference on Childhood Obesity in Lisbon, Portugal.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2010 Uniting Against Childhood Obesity Conference in Houston, TX.

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