Researchers Study

Duke researchers say mask study wasn’t meant to disparage neck gaiters –

By Adam Owens, WRAL anchor/reporter

Durham, N.C. — Duke University research that showed how poorly some face coverings perform wasn’t exactly the intent of the study, researchers said Wednesday.

The study that WRAL News first reported last week showed neck gaiters do a better job at spreading the coronavirus than containing it, a detail that has since gotten nationwide media attention.

But Martin Fischer, an associate research professor in Duke’s chemistry department who participated in the study, said the research was geared toward demonstrating a way to study the effectiveness of masks and other face coverings.

Researchers used a laser in a box and a camera to record respiratory particles that might escape from different masks.

“It is amazing to see how many particles come out of your mouth when you speak,” Fischer said.

A fitted N95 mask performed the best, but according to the researchers, a neck gaiter used in the test did the worst – appearing to break droplets into smaller particles that then escaped into the air.

“Not all … neck gaiters are bad. There are plenty good ones out there,” Fischer said. “It depends so much on the material, on how many layers you wear.”

The Clark brothers say theirs would have performed better in the Duke tests.

“Not all neck gaiters are the same,” 14-year-old Dylan Clark said. “There are a ton of neck gaiter masks out there, and just because they tested one, it doesn’t apply to all of them.”

He and his 16-year-old brother, Connor, have their own company, CopperSafe, that has sold tens of thousands of gaiters.

“We have seen so many customers reordering masks – individuals and companies,” Dylan Clark said.

Fischer said the study wasn’t meant to rate different coverings, adding that he believes wearing a face covering is an important way to limit the spread of the virus.

“Just because we had one bad mask does not diss all the other masks,” he said. “We don’t have the resources to test all sorts of masks.”

The research team plans to study next how particles escape from masks, whether they’re coming from gaps around the edges or moving through the fabric, he said.

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Melbourne Study

Melbourne is a Case Study in Navigating a Second Wave of Coronavirus – The New York Times

Melbourne, Australia’s second-largest city, is becoming a case study in handling a second wave of infections. There are lots of unanswered questions.

Credit…William West/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Damien Cave

Australia’s second-largest city, Melbourne, is grappling with a spiraling coronavirus outbreak that has led to a lockdown with some of the toughest restrictions in the world — offering a preview of what many urban dwellers elsewhere could confront in coming weeks and months.

The new lockdown is the product of early success; the country thought it had the virus beat in June. But there was a breakdown in the quarantine program for hotels. Returning travelers passed the virus to hotel security guards in Melbourne, who carried the contagion home.

Even after masks became mandatory in the city two weeks ago, the spread continued. And now, as officials try to break the chain of infections, Melbourne is being reshaped by sweeping enforcement and fine print. A confounding matrix of hefty fines for disobedience to the lockdown and minor exceptions for everything from romantic partners to home building has led to silenced streets and endless versions of the question: So, wait, can I ____?

Restaurant owners are wondering about food delivery after an 8 p.m. curfew began on Sunday night. Teenagers are asking if their boyfriends and girlfriends count as essential partners. Can animal shelter volunteers walk dogs at night? Are house cleaners essential for those struggling with their mental health? Can people who have been tested exercise outside?

“This is such a weird, scary, bizarro time that we live in,” said Tessethia Von Tessle Roberts, 25, a student in Melbourne who admits to having hit a breaking point a few days ago, when her washing machine broke.

“Our health care workers are hustling around the clock to keep us alive,” she said. “Our politicians are as scared as we are, but they have to pretend like they have a better idea than we do of what’s going to happen next.”

Pandemic lockdowns, never easy, are getting ever more confusing and contentious as they evolve in the face of second and third rounds of outbreaks that have exhausted both officials and residents. With success against the virus as fleeting as the breeze, the new waves of restrictions feel to many like a bombing raid that just won’t end.

For some places, risk calculations can change overnight. In Hong Kong, officials banned daytime dining in restaurants last month, only to reverse themselves a day later after an outcry. Schools in some cities are opening and closing like screen doors in summer.

In many areas where the virus has retreated and then resurged, the future looks like a long, complicated haul. Leaders are reaching for their own metaphors to try to explain it.


Credit…William West/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

In California, Gov. Gavin Newsom has compared his opening and shutting of businesses to a “dimmer switch.” Dan Andrews, the premier in Victoria, the state of which Melbourne is the capital, has repeatedly referred to “pilot light mode” for industries like construction and meatpacking, which have been ordered to temporarily reduce their work forces.

Whatever the metaphor, the situation is bleak.

In Melbourne, a city of five million that is considered a capital of food and culture, the pandemic has come raging back even after a so-called Stage 3 lockdown began in early July — until recently the highest level of restrictions.

Officials have been flummoxed at every turn by the persistent complacency of just enough people to let the virus thrive and multiply.

Traffic data showed people driving more in July than they had during the first Stage 3 lockdown, in March and April. Even worse, almost nine out of 10 people with Covid-19 had not been tested or isolated when they first felt sick, Mr. Andrews, the state’s top leader, said in late July. And 53 percent had not quarantined while waiting for their test results.

“That means people have felt unwell and just gone about their business,” Mr. Andrews said.

Sounding the alarm, he made face masks mandatory the next day, on July 22.

Still, infections have continued to rise. They peaked at 753 new cases on July 30, and have hovered around 500 a day ever since, with the death toll in Victoria now standing at 147, after 11 deaths were recorded on Monday.

Those figures, while far less troublesome than those in the United States, have paved the way for a Stage 4 lockdown — what officials are calling a “shock and awe” attack on the virus — that will last at least six weeks.


Credit…Daniel Pockett/Getty Images

Overwhelming force, with precision, seems to be the goal. The chief modelers of the pandemic response in Australia have found that the virus can be suppressed only if more than 70 percent of the population abides by social distancing guidelines and other public health rules.

Mr. Andrews said the new restrictions would take 250,000 more people out of their routines, in the hopes of reaching the necessary threshold.

So retail stores will be closed. Schools will return to at-home instruction. Restaurants will be takeout or delivery only. Child-care centers will be available only for permitted workers.

Those restrictions are already well understood. The rules requiring more explanation are tied to the curfew and industries that have to cut back.

Large-scale construction projects of more than three stories, for example, will have to reduce their on-site work force by 75 percent, and workers will not be able to work at more than one location. Small-scale construction cannot have more than five workers.

All of which sounds clear. But does a bathroom renovation, for example, amount to home building in an apartment with one bathroom? And what about fixing things that break, like Ms. Von Tessle Roberts’s washing machine?

Some businesses, like cleaning services, are already emailing customers to say they think they can do some work, for people who pay through welfare or who need help for mental health reasons. But, like many others, they are still seeking official clarification.


Credit…David Crosling/EPA, via Shutterstock

Mr. Andrews, a Labor politician sometimes described as awkward and paternal, has become the dad everyone needs answers from. He now oversees, under the lockdown rules, what may be the country’s most intrusive bureaucracy since its days as a penal colony.

On Tuesday, he answered questions from reporters about dog-walking (allowed after curfew, sort of, only near home) and other subjects of great confusion at a news conference in Melbourne.

Thanking those who complied with the new rules and scolding those who did not, he announced that no one in self-isolation would now be allowed to exercise outdoors. A door-knocking campaign to check in on 3,000 people who had Covid-19 found that 800 of them were not at home.

All 800 have been referred to the Victoria police for investigation. The fine for violators going forward, he said, will be 4,957 Australian dollars, $3,532.

Working, even legally, will also become trickier. Other than, say, hospital workers with formal identification, everyone traveling for a job deemed essential during the lockdown must carry a formal document — a work permit signed by the employer and employee.

For Cara Devine, who works at a wine store that closes at 8 p.m., that means carrying a government form with her everywhere, and hoping that the police recognize her task as essential when she heads home after the curfew. But she also worried about the Uber drivers who take her back and forth.


Credit…William West/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

“Even before the newest restrictions, I’ve had two Uber drivers being really late picking up from the shop because they got stopped by the police, taking about an hour out of their work time,” she said.

The police are already confronting opposition. On at least four occasions in the last week, they reported having to smash the windows of cars and pull people out after they refused to provide a name and address at a police checkpoint. The Victoria police commissioner, Shane Patton, said a 38-year-old woman had also been charged with assault after attacking a police officer who had stopped her for not wearing a face mask.

Some criminologists are questioning whether the harsher enforcement will help. Mostly, though, Melburnians are just trying to endure.

Walking to get groceries, Peter Barnes, 56, said he welcomed the stricter rules, though he admitted his city was starting to feel like George Orwell’s “1984,” with the heavy hand of the state around every corner.

Those focused solely on the economics, he said, should remember the obvious: “You can’t hire a corpse. Very bad employment prospects for people who are dead.”

By Monday night, the city seemed to be in listening mode. The streets were emptying out, silent in hibernation.

“It’s like a Sunday in the 1950s,” said Mark Rubbo, the owner of Readings, Melbourne’s largest independent bookstore. He also noted that people were stocking up again on books through online orders, with a memoir called “The Happiest Man on Earth,” about a Holocaust survivor, becoming a runaway hit.

Ms. Von Tessle Roberts has found another solution, perhaps just as likely to grow in popularity: Stand on your front porch and scream. That’s the name she has given to an event she posted on Facebook, set for Friday at 7 p.m. By Tuesday afternoon, 70,000 people had expressed an interest in joining her collective shout in anguish.

“Yelling is great,” she said. “It’s less dehydrating than crying.”


Credit…Erik Anderson/EPA, via Shutterstock

Besha Rodell and Yan Zhuang contributed reporting from Melbourne, and Livia Albeck-Ripka from Cairns, Australia.

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Finds Study

Study finds higher viral load in young children, raising questions about how likely they are to transmit the coronavirus – CNN

(CNN)Children younger than 5 have between 10 and 100 times more genetic material from the novel coronavirus in their noses compared to older children and to adults, according to a small study published Thursday in the journal JAMA Pediatrics.

While the study didn’t measure transmissibility, it raises questions — just as schools start to reopen — about how easily the new coronavirus may be spread by the under-5 set.
“We had just noticed that some of the children that we were testing for SARS CoV-2 that were positive, the youngest children seemed to have a high amount of the viral nucleic acid — a high viral load in their nose — compared to some of our older children and adults,” lead author Dr. Taylor Heald-Sargent, a pediatric infectious diseases specialist at Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago, told CNN. “And so when we … actually ran the numbers, controlled for a few things, we found that there was actually a statistically significant higher amount of the genes that are encoded by SARS, which usually correlates to more virus, in the nose of children less than five years old, compared to older children and adults.”
Heald-Sargent and her team analyzed 145 swab samples collected from patients with mild to moderate Covid-19 within a week of symptom onset; 46 of them were from children under 5, 51 were from 5- to 17-year-olds, and 48 were from adults between 18 and 65. The samples were collected between the end of March and the end of April from various inpatient, outpatient, emergency department and drive-through testing sites at a pediatric tertiary medical center in Chicago.
They found that those under 5 had a statistically significant greater amount of virus particles in the nose correlating to “a 10-fold to 100-fold greater amount of the coronavirus in the upper respiratory tract … ” the researchers wrote in their paper.
Heald-Sargent says more studies need to look at transmissibility of SARS-CoV-2 in children. “So far this transmission doesn’t seem to be primarily coming from children,” said Heald-Sargent.
But her team noted in the paper that because of the stay-at-home measures implemented in mid-March, many young children had fewer opportunities to transmit.
“The question was still out there: Could it be possibly transmitted from kids?” she said, noting that absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.
If other respiratory viruses are any indication, she said, the answer may very well be yes.
“Any grade-school teacher or pediatrician will tell you, [young children] are pretty effective little vectors of virus transmission, because we get sick a lot in the winter from these kids,” she said. “I think looking at other viruses that are similar …it would seem more likely that kids will be transmitting.”
Other experts say that while they’re not surprised by the findings, it’s good to have the study.
“The data in pediatrics has not been as robust as adults with Covid-19 so it’s really nice to have additional virologic data in pediatric patients,” said Dr. Alpana Waghmare of Seattle Children’s.
“The authors did a nice job comparing a fairly robust sample size of subjects across different age ranges and using a pretty straightforward research design to look at the differences in viral load across these age groups,” said Waghmare, who is an assistant professor of pediatrics in the division of pediatric infectious diseases at the University of Washington.
Waghmare said that the findings are consistent with other published studies looking at viral loads across a spectrum of respiratory viruses in pediatric populations. “It’s not surprising to find higher viral loads in children. I think the question of what that exactly means for transmission is still not clear,” she said.
Dr. Michael Smit, a pediatric infectious diseases physician at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles agrees — and then some.
“We’ve known for quite a while that for certain respiratory viruses, younger children are the breeding ground and they’re the part of the population that spreads it to the rest of the community,” said Smit, who is also the hospital’s epidemiologist and the medical director for infection prevention and control.
Smit said it has been demonstrated before with respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) and his own group’s research, published as a research letter in JAMA Network Open in mid-May, showed the same thing with the seasonal coronaviruses. “So, it’s a known phenomenon in pediatrics that the younger children can be the main drivers of spread of disease and communities.”
There are still questions about the new coronavirus, though. One recent study in South Korea found young people ages 10 to 19 transmitted Covid-19 within households just as much as adults, but children 9 and younger transmitted the virus at rates far lower.
The issue remains, what can you do about it?
“Once you figure out kind of the dynamics of how much virus is there and what age groups it tends to be greater in and lesser in, then that can help us form strategies for surveillance, for testing, for isolation,” he said.
Heald-Sargent said the “behavioral habits” of very young children — for example, the lack of awareness of personal space and personal hygiene, all the fidgeting, hands-on play, and wiping of eyes and noses — make it hard to control any potential spread, but it’s important to try.
“It’s a struggle to get them to wear their masks and to wash their hands and to not put everything in their mouth and their nose,” she said.
“Having adults model good behavior, having them encourage their children to wash their hands and to wear their mask as much as possible, cleaning high touch areas, being careful with diapers” are all good practices, she said, adding that small children usually want to please their parents.
At a societal level, she said it will also be important to implement infection control practices such as contact tracing, and take steps at school, such as keeping children within the same small groups, to limit the spread.

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Coronavirus Study

Dogs Can Tell You If You Have Coronavirus as Well as a Test, Study Finds – Best Life

These trained dogs can sniff out samples to detect who has coronavirus and who does not.

teen playing with golden retriever outside while wearing a mask.


The coronavirus can manifest itself in various ways, sometimes producing a myriad of symptoms and other times, not producing any at all. Since it isn’t always so clearcut, testing is extremely important to determine who is actually infected. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), almost 53 million people have gotten tested for the coronavirus in the United States since the start of the pandemic. However, it turns out, testing may not be the only thing that can alert you if you have the coronavirus. According to a new study, dogs may be able to tell if you have coronavirus just as well as a test can.

The German study out of the University of Veterinary Medicine Hannover found that dogs are able to distinguish human saliva samples that are infected with the novel coronavirus from those that are not with 94 percent accuracy, if properly trained.

A small labrador retriever puppy catches the smells in a field on a bright summer day

For the study, which was published in the BMC Infectious Diseases journal on July 23, researchers trained eight dogs from Germany’s Armed Forces for just one week. The dogs were directed to sniff the saliva of more than 1,000 people both infected and not infected with COVID-19. The samples were distributed at random, and neither the dogs nor their handlers knew if they were receiving an infected sample.

“We think that the dogs are able to detect a specific smell of the metabolic changes that occur in those patients,” Maren von Koeckritz-Blickwede, a co-conductor of the study and professor at the university, said in a video about the research.

According to the study, since dogs can be trained relatively quickly, this method of detection could be “employed in public areas such as airports, sport events, borders, and other mass gatherings” in addition to, or in place of, lab testing. After all, both methods seemingly have similar levels of accuracy: Quick coronavirus tests using swabbed samples from the nose, throat, or saliva, are only about 93 percent accurate. The only test that boasts higher results than the dog sniffing method is a deep nasal swab, which is 99 percent accurate.

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The study says there is still much to be researched in regards to dog-based coronavirus detection. For instance, not much is known about what happens when a dog gets the coronavirus—although it is reportedly rare—and if that may affect the dog’s sense of smell. But if all the limitations of the study could be further researched, authors note that for “countries with limited access to diagnostic tests, detection dogs could then have the potential to be used for mass detection of infected people.” And for more on animals and the coronavirus, check out These Are the Pets Most Likely to Get Coronavirus.

Kali Coleman

Kali is an assistant editor at Best Life. Read more