What are we Learning About COVID-19?

COVID-19 has turned our world upside down. Schools closed in March. Some of us experienced partial re-openings in June. As we use July and August to plan the next version of school, it is critical that we continue to learn as much as we can about the corona virus, and how to stay safe.

Our understanding of the virus that has caused this world pandemic continues to evolve. Recently, I listened to Donald G. McNeill Jr., a health and science reporter with the New York Times, interviewed by Michael Barbaro on The Daily podcast.

We’ve learned that the corona virus is not a respiratory virus as initially believed. It enters through the respiratory tract, but that is really the only similarity to influenza. Once it gets into our airways, it attaches to the inside of blood vessels, which then allows it to travel anywhere in our bodies. It can attack the brain, the kidneys, the gut, the skin – anywhere.

We see young people presenting with symptoms like “Covid Toes” and “Covid Fingers”, with numerous tiny blood clots blocking the small vessels of the hands and feet. This is not at all what we look for with classic screening tools.

What we learn from this, is two-fold. First, our understanding of the symptoms is far less well established than we may have been led to believe. To really diagnose the virus, we need much more testing. Secondly, we don’t have any idea about the long term impact of the virus. What happens to all the blood clots that are part of the symptomatology of COVID-19?

We also know that the virus is mutating. We see new characteristics about every two weeks. In general viruses tend to become more spreadable and less dangerous as they mutate. But there’s nothing right now to indicate that this virus is becoming any less dangerous and in fact we must remember that it is very dangerous and we have to continue to treat it that way.

We do know that we are much safer outside than inside. When we look at research around super-spreaders in clusters, very few of those happened outside.

When it comes to schools, we know that no indoor shared spaces are safe right now. We do know that children are huge spreaders of flu and respiratory viruses because they cough and sneeze a lot. However, it turns out that for young children, the symptoms of Covid-19 tend to be more inflammatory in nature (rather than respiratory). Young children have not been shown to be super spreaders of the disease. It gives us some hope that schools for young children at least can be opened relatively safely.

Unfortunately, we are not sure about the safety of the grown-ups. Schools attract a lot of grown-ups. Teachers, support staff, even parents at pick-up and drop-off times could be at increased risk.

This is a very dangerous virus. As we plan for school, especially for young children, we need to be very strategic about how we ensure the safety of everyone, while also using this time as a catalyst to shift our thinking about the value of being in school. If we are bringing people together in school buildings, what is the important work that needs to be done?

Featured image from @unitednations


The Daily (New York Times Podcast) Four New Insights About the CoronaVirus

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