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This week a neighboring county issued an order that if you step outside of your house, you have to wear a mask. Really?!? Golf courses are open, but I have to play in a mask. In 90+ degree weather. You want to give me heat stroke? That’s better than getting a virus that affects at most 2% of the population, and then with a 98% survival rate?!? Playgrounds, pools, and beaches are all being closed. For what?
It’s time for a realistic risk assessment.
Every doctor properly considers whether a therapy is more likely to hurt or help a patient. If you’ve got GERD (reflux), you’ll probably be put on a proton pump inhibitor, a drug that is sold over the counter due to its safety. What you may not know is that he told you to take it for no more than two weeks because it can interfere with absorption of vitamin B-12, causing other problems.
Suppose you have something a bit more serious, like a bronchitis with a nasty productive cough that’s making your family reach for ear plugs. Your doctor will assess whether he thinks it’s viral or bacterial. If it’s viral and he gives you an antibiotic that only works on bacteria, he can kill off one variety of bacteria and do you no good. As you get sicker, a nastier bug will take over, making it more difficult to treat.
You get the picture. Every treatment has good and bad sides. And right now, we have advisers to the President that aren’t able to see the bad side of their prescription. All they can see is SARS-CoV-2 (COVID 19). They are so afraid of the Wuhan Flu that they will do everything possible to shut it down. Everything. And their panic is contagious. Even local medical people are drinking the Kool-Aid. That’s why we have police ticketing worshipers who are attending a church service without leaving their cars.
The reality of playing outdoors is that it’s one of the safest of all possible activities. It’s even safer than staying at home with your family. If one of them is a stealth carrier, your risk may be up to 18 times greater staying indoors with them compared to outdoor activity. Let’s consider why.
Wuhan Flu is spread by droplet (cough or sneeze) or aerosol (the fog you breathe out). The six foot separation idea (a good one, by the way) is designed to keep you away from your neighbor’s aerosol and ordinary coughs that escape his elbow. If you are indoors, air movement is relatively small, and aerosols can persist for a while. Let’s take that outdoors.
Air movement outdoors is dramatically greater than indoors, unless you’re in specially designed spaces such as the “Negative Pressure Rooms” in hospitals. That means that at a Paris sidewalk café, you have nothing to fear from aerosols. They will whisk away quicker than you can imagine. They are like cigarette smoke. Indoors, it rises straight up. But in those outdoor movie scenes, it vanishes in a moment due to the motion of air. And that’s not all.
There’s a small object outside called the sun. It creates toxic radiation that causes sunburn and skin cancer. Those ultraviolet photons reach the earth even through clouds, which is why you are advised to wear sunscreen at the beach even on cloudy days. It wreaks havoc on viruses. The Journal of Virology states that “UV radiation from the sun is the primary germicide in the environment.”
“Sunlight or, more specifically, solar UV radiation (UV) acts as the principal natural virucide in the environment. UV radiation kills viruses by chemically modifying their genetic material, DNA and RNA.”
Forgive me if my math is off, but for an average of twelve hours per day, everywhere in the world, nature’s most potent sterilizing agent is flooding everything outside. That includes beach umbrellas, jungle gyms, and golf bunker rakes. That means that touching any of them is highly unlikely to bring you into contact with COVID 19.
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Even if you do, we have a second question to ask. How many viruses do you need to have contact with to get sick? In theory, only one. In fact, a lot more than one. One single virus has a 0.00000…1 chance of getting you sick. We don’t know how many zeroes to put there, but it’s a lot. Double that to two viruses, and you still have a lot of zeroes. Somewhere as you get up into large numbers of viruses, you reach a point where there is a realistic chance that you would get sick. But because of solar UV, you probably won’t get that exposure while playing outside in the park, on the beach, or the links.
For this reason, closing beaches, parks, and my favorite 9-hole golf course make no sense. In those settings, there’s lots of room for distancing. And there’s lots of air movement to dissipate aerosols while UV destroys the viruses in them. I know, Daytona Beach is a favorite spring break destination, and the kids ignore the rules. So what?
Even in the Diamond Princess quarantine, with thousands of people cooped up in the ship, only 20% of the people got sick. Of them, less than 2% died. And those were older people with co-morbidities (pre-existing conditions for the Obamacare crowd).
Who’s at spring break? College age kids who are mostly the very picture of health. Most of those who get sick won’t even know it, and herd immunity will increase. That’s a good thing. The minority who know they’re sick will get a mild illness that resolves with more herd immunity. As long as they don’t deliberately spread the virus by staying with groups while ill, there’s no problem.
Restricting outdoor activities is likely to make the Wuhan Flu epidemic worse. People will get more illnesses indoors than out. Actually, being out is likely to reduce illnesses. As your grandmother said, fresh air is good for you. And there’s a lot more of it outside. Now, in Florida (my home), most golf courses are open. But like little Winter Park, there are a lot of scared people who are running like lemmings to be the most careful, without realizing that they are causing more harm than good.
We need to open our parks, beaches and tennis courts. They are the safest places in the world, unless you happen to sprain your ankle reaching for a backhand or Corona.
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