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Nov 30, 2020 News
Kaieteur News – With the continuous increase in COVID-19 cases, there has been much talk about irresponsible gatherings being a major contributory factor.
Emergency Medicine Specialist, Dr. Zulfikar Bux, with information garnered from an overseas study, revealed how some places can easily become COVID-19 hotspots.
The study conducted by researchers from Stanford and Northwestern Universities in the United States, was able to ascertain that social sites such as restaurants/cafes, gyms, hotels and religious gatherings are high risk.
Interestingly though, the doctor in his most recent column in this newspaper stated, “it does not mean that we should avoid these places altogether. We have to live and adapt to life with this virus for at least the next year.”
In his recent writings too, Dr. Bux shared some measures which, once implemented properly, will yield positive outcomes. According to the doctor, the researchers confirmed that it only takes a small number of infected persons to infect a large group confined to a small space for a prolonged period.
Moreover, a suggested measure that has been proffered, Dr. Bux said, is “that capping capacity at 20 percent of maximum occupancy can reduce the infections by more than 80 percent in such spaces.”
Although moves have been made by government to relax some COVID-19 restrictions, Dr. Bux argued that any attempt to fully reopen the country must be done with a generous amount of care and caution.
Once measures, such as controlling occupancy, are adhered to, Dr. Bux said that “this will mean that these sites will only lose around 40 percent visits when compared to fully reopening the country with usual maximum occupancy.” Risk, he said, can be decreased further if visitors minimize the time they spend at these sites while wearing their masks. Mask wearing and good hygienic practices are among the critical measures to help combat COVID-19, and Dr. Bux has long been promoting these.
“We should be more selective in where we go and how we expose ourselves. It doesn’t mean that you should avoid these spaces (social sites); all you need to do is take what you’ve learnt and apply it smartly while behaving responsibly,” he advised.
The study, referenced by Dr. Bux, saw the use of cell phone location data to track the movements of 98 million Americans in some metropolitan cities which came up with the hotspot areas where infections were more likely to spread.
Since the focus of the study was on social sites, schools, nursing homes, prisons, etc., that are known to be associated with COVID-19 outbreaks, were deliberately not included.
In restaurants/cafes environments, Dr. Bux noted that the risk increases since persons would have to spend some amount of time without their face mask while eating. “The fact that they are in an enclosed space with others, makes it a very suitable environment for the virus to spread,” he cautioned.
Turning his attention to gyms, these, he said, tend to be enclosed and those who exercise breathe harder and faster. Moreover, “someone with an infection will therefore expel more virus particles while they are exercising. This will expose others to higher inoculations of the virus which is circulating in the closed space. Also, since equipment used in gyms are touched by many persons on a daily basis, the coronavirus, which causes COVID-19, can persist on these surfaces for hours (sometimes days) and come in contact with others.”
Troubling too, Dr. Bux noted, is the fact that some hotels re-circulate their air from split air conditioning units. This, he said, will obviously keep the virus particles in closed spaces longer if an infected person enters. In addition, indoor eating, swimming at pools and coming in contact with others at hotels will increase one’s risk of coming in contact with the virus, he added.
The impact of COVID-19 has even been noticeable in religious activities which Dr. Bux observed, “tend to bring groups of persons in close proximity to each other in mostly closed spaces over a period of time. There may be loud speaking or singing at these gatherings. The louder someone who is infected yells, the more virus particles they will expel and the further it will travel. This will obviously increase the risk for others around who are closer together in a closed space for a protracted period.”
Despite the continued COVID-19 concerns, Dr. Bux remains hopeful that his campaign to raise awareness will result in more members of the public opting to be “more careful and selective” if they have to visit places where the disease has potential to thrive.
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