As Trump and Gov. Ron DeSantis further their plans to reopen the country, new research says coronavirus can spread in the air over twice the distance recommended.
President Donald Trump continues his push to “liberate the states” — as he describes the reopening of the economy — in the midst of a COVID-19 outbreak that at this time is responsible for more than 760,000 confirmed cases and 40,000 deaths nationwide. And on Sunday, Vice-President Mike Pence went on Fox News to reiterate the need to reopen the economy, lest “the cure be worse than the disease.” For this, he has a plan: widespread testing for coronavirus.
“We have every confidence that we can have a sufficient amount of testing to be able to reopen America,” Pence told host Chris Wallace. Except that, at the moment, he is 23 million tests short of the target his task force set for the end of March.
Similarly, Gov Ron DeSantis, one of Trump’s staunchest allies, continues his own quest for “liberating” Florida. After opening beaches to the public in Jacksonville on Friday, the Republican governor has followed the president’s lead, creating a task force in charge of opening the state for business despite the growing number of confirmed cases of coronavirus (26,314), and COVID-19 related deaths (774), in Florida as of Monday.
Six Feet Might Not Be Enough
This comes at a time when a small study from China has found that the novel coronavirus can spread in the air for about over twice the distance currently being recommended for social distancing in public.
The study was conducted in March by scientists at Beijing’s Academy of Military Medical Sciences. It tested air and surface samples from both an ICU and a coronavirus treatment ward that held a total of 37 virus patients at the Huoshenshan Hospital in Wuhan, the city where the outbreak began.
According to the research, which was posted online in the Centers for Disease Control’s (CDC) Emerging Infectious Diseases Journal, coronavirus can be found in the air up to 13 feet from patients in a hospital. The study also showed that the virus was concentrated on the ward’s floors, and that half of the samples from the soles of the ICU medical staff shoes tested positive.
“Therefore, the soles of medical staff shoes might function as carriers,” it went on to say.
Other high concentration areas included bed rails, doorknobs, trash cans, computer mice and other frequently touched surfaces.
When asked whether the study will impact the (at least) 6-foot standard for social distancing recommended that people maintain if they are required to leave home, a spokesperson for the CDC’s hotline told The Americano that there are no changes at this time.
An earlier study conducted by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) gave the virus a travel range of 23-37 feet. However, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the leading US infectious disease expert, claimed that the MIT research lacked practicality and called it “misleading.” Dr. Fauci went on to explain that in order for the droplets of the virus to travel that far, it would take a “very, very robust, vigorous, achoo sneeze,” even going as far as feigning one during a press conference.
A Lesson Not Learned From Other Epidemics
The rapid spread of Spanish flu in the fall of 1918, which is estimated killed up to 50 million people globally, was partially to blame on public health officials’ unwillingness to impose quarantines, some scholars believe. And despite the rapidly growing numbers of cases and deaths due to COVID-19, Trump and many of his Republican allies continue to push for a “liberation” of the states, despite the danger to life.