Multiple Authors
By: Katherine Harmon Courage, Knowable Magazine

This story was originally published by Knowable Magazine.

From mask wearing to physical distancing, individuals wield a lot of power in how the coronavirus outbreak plays out. Behavioral experts reveal what might be prompting people to act—or not.

With many states and towns lifting strict stay-at-home orders, people are faced with a growing number of new decisions. Mundane logistical questions—Should I go get my hair cut? When can I picnic with friends? What should I wear to the hardware store?—during the Covid-19 pandemic carry implications for personal and public health, in some cases life-or-death ones.

Matthew Staymates’s picture

By: Matthew Staymates

As a fluid dynamicist and mechanical engineer at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), I’ve devoted much of my career to helping others see things that are often difficult to detect. I’ve shown the complex flow of air that occurs when a dog sniffs. I’ve helped develop ways to detect drugs and explosives by heating them into a vapor. I’ve explored how drug residue can contaminate crime labs. I’ve even shown how to screen shoes for explosives.

Most of these examples fit into a common theme: detecting drugs and explosives through the flow of fluids that are usually invisible. When I’m in the laboratory, I use a number of advanced fluid flow-visualization tools to help better understand and improve our ability to detect illicit drugs and explosives on surfaces, on people, and in the environment.

Donald J. Wheeler’s picture

By: Donald J. Wheeler

The daily Covid-19 pandemic values tell us how things have changed from yesterday, and give us the current totals, but they are difficult to understand simply because they are only a small piece of the puzzle. This article will present a global perspective on the pandemic and show where the United States stands in relation to the rest of the world at the end of the third week in June.

Here we will consider 27 countries that are home to 5 billion people (67% of the world's population). According to the European CDC database, which is the source for all of the data reported here, these 27 countries had more than 75 percent of the world’s confirmed Covid-19 cases and 86 percent of the Covid deaths as of June 20, 2020. So they should provide a reasonable perspective on the worldwide pandemic. Figure 1 lists these countries by region and gives the relevant Covid-19 counts and rates as of June 20, 2020.


Figure 1: Countries used for global summary

William A. Levinson’s picture

By: William A. Levinson

The U.S. House of Representatives has passed the HEROES Act (Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions Act)1 which will, if approved by the Senate and president, require OSHA to develop a standard for workplace protection against Covid-19.

Under section 120302 the legislation says specifically (emphasis is mine):

“(a) EMERGENCY TEMPORARY STANDARD

(1) In general—in consideration of the grave danger presented by COVID-19 and the need to strengthen protections for employees, notwithstanding the provisions of law and the Executive orders listed in paragraph (7), not later than 7 days after the date of enactment of this Act, the Secretary of Labor shall promulgate an emergency temporary standard to protect from occupational exposure to SARS-CoV-2

(A) employees of health care sector employers;
(B) employees of employers in the paramedic and emergency medical services, including such services provided by firefighters and other emergency responders; and
(C) other employees at occupational risk of such exposure. ...

Leigh Turner’s picture

By: Leigh Turner

Given the death, suffering, social disruption and economic devastation caused by Covid-19, there is an urgent need to quickly develop therapies to treat this disease and prevent the spread of the virus.

But the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), charged with the task of evaluating and deciding whether to approve new drugs and other products, has a problem. The FDA’s standards appear to be dropping at a time when rigorous regulatory review and robust oversight are crucial.

Maggie Pavlick’s picture

By: Maggie Pavlick

Masks, gowns, and other personal protective equipment (PPE) are essential for protecting healthcare workers. However, the textiles and materials used to make such items can absorb and carry viruses and bacteria, inadvertently spreading the disease the wearer sought to contain.

When the coronavirus spread among healthcare professionals and left PPE in short supply, finding a way to provide better protection while allowing for the safe reuse of these items became critical.

“Recently there’s been a focus on blood-repellent surfaces, and we were interested in achieving this with mechanical durability,” says Anthony Galante, a Ph.D. student in industrial engineering at the University of Pittsburgh and lead author of the paper in in the journal ACS Applied Materials and Interfaces.

“We want to push the boundary on what is possible with these types of surfaces, and especially given the current pandemic, we knew it’d be important to test against viruses.”

Thomas Hellwig’s picture

By: Thomas Hellwig

The Covid-19 world is marked by a high degree of uncertainty and existential fear, a dearth of social interaction, the convergence of professional and personal space, a lack of physical activity, and an obsessive focus on hygiene and social distancing. For professionals, this amounts to a toxic combination that elevates stress levels and increases the risk of burnout. Virtually no one—and no organization—is immune.

Now more than ever, managers should become sensitive to the mental health of their teams, not to mention themselves. But few managers have formal training in this arena, which means their ability to directly intervene in the most severe cases is limited. What managers need first and foremost is a set of tools to help identify when an employee is seriously struggling. They can then take appropriate steps to ensure the sufferer has access to the necessary resources before the problem becomes so big that it’s overwhelming.

Jessica Reiner’s picture

By: Jessica Reiner

For more than 20 years, a class of man-made, potentially cancer-causing chemicals called per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) has commonly been found in humans and the environment. These chemicals are used in a variety of industries and can be found in many consumer products, such as food packaging and cleaners. Many early studies showed PFAS could even be found in remote locations like the Arctic.

There is one that I remember well in which 21 of the top PFAS researchers wrote about the measurement challenges that were hindering research. I was in graduate school at the time, and this paper really resonated with me. The authors pointed out that data for these chemicals should be accurate, precise, and reproducible because it was likely these data would be used as a foundation for regulatory decisions. As I look at the current news, it seems that these regulatory decisions are now being made under the Environmental Protection Agency’s PFAS Action Plan.

Dirk Dusharme @ Quality Digest’s picture

By: Dirk Dusharme @ Quality Digest

Around the world, local agencies and institutions have scrambled to find personal protective equipment (PPE) to protect their essential employees from Covid-19. Not just healthcare workers, but also the men and women who to work to keep our cities and counties up and running, from emergency responders to maintenance workers.

Told by President Trump to fend for themselves, states that couldn’t find local PPE sources have signed contracts directly with overseas manufacturers or distributors claiming to represent them. Given the problems of getting it themselves or competing with the federal government for the same supplies, governors of seven Eastern states even agreed to work together on purchasing medical equipment.

Quality Digest’s picture

By: Quality Digest

It’s easy to assume that something as simple as a mask wouldn’t pose much of a risk. Essentially, it’s just a covering that goes over your nose and mouth.

But masks are more than just stitched-together cloth. Medical-grade masks use multiple layers of nonwoven material, usually polypropylene, designed to meet specific standards for how big and how many particles they can block. And they are tested and certified to determine how well they do that job.

Healthcare and other frontline workers usually use either a surgical mask or an N95 mask. Both protect the patient from the wearer’s respiratory emissions. But where surgical masks provide the wearer protection against large droplets, splashes, or sprays of bodily or other hazardous fluids, an N95 mask is designed to achieve a very close facial fit and very efficient filtration of submicron airborne particles.

The “N95” (or “KN95”) designation means that the respirator blocks at least 95 percent of very small (0.3 micron) test particles. If properly fitted, the filtration capabilities of N95 respirators exceed those of face masks.

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