Keeping up with COVID — Workers’ health matters

It’s hard to keep up with information during this pandemic. New studies and reports about the SARS-CoV-2 virus and COVID-19 come out almost daily. Lots are “free access”. Some are helpful, others confuse, and still others justify preconceived ideas by mis-representing information.

The materials and links here include worker-oriented materials, links to studies, comments about them, and information about transmission and protection measures.

COVID is airborne

The SARS-CoV2 virus is in the air — at close range and further away. This clear science can no longer be denied. Occupational health specialists and others from Canada and around the world have delivered this message since the pandemic started.

April 30, 2021 — The WHO finally allows that aerosols matter — while sticking to its one-metre rule

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has finally said aerosols matter. Without fanfare, they changed their site April 30th to say:

The virus can spread from an infected person’s mouth or nose in small liquid particles when they cough, sneeze, speak, sing or breathe. These particles range from larger respiratory droplets to smaller aerosols.

  • Current evidence suggests that the virus spreads mainly between people who are in close contact with each other, typically within 1 metre (short-range). A person can be infected when aerosols or droplets containing the virus are inhaled or come directly into contact with the eyes, nose, or mouth.
  • The virus can also spread in poorly ventilated and/or crowded indoor settings, where people tend to spend longer periods of time. This is because aerosols remain suspended in the air or travel farther than 1 metre (long-range).

Unfortunately, they continue to mix cleaning with disinfecting and refer on the page to the ventilation solution as “opening windows”.

Windows help a little bit but aren’t real ventilation systems. Strange that the WHO doesn’t refer to its own real ventilation document, Roadmap to improve and ensure good indoor ventilation in the context of COVID-19.

 

April 28, 2021 — Day of Mourning letter to Ontario’s Science Advisory Table

Today the Canadian coalition of occupational health specialists, engineers, doctors and others concerned about worker health in the pandemic sent a letter to Ontario’s Science Advisory Table. Applauding the group’s modelling and warnings about “inside” spaces, the coalition called on the Table to recognise aerosol and airborne transmission as a logical step to their warnings about “shared air” inside workplaces.

The letter went on the 35th Day of Mourning to remember workers killed, injured and made ill by their jobs.

 

April 20, 2021, we have some “dynamite” around airborne transmission and the WHO

 
First, a CBC reporter has done a great story about SARS-CoV2 airborne transmission for their website and tonight’s television programme, The National.
 

The story, titled “Scientists suggest coronavirus is airborne, ask WHO to change recommendations”, reports the recent debate between Dr. John Conly (a defender of droplet dogma and head of the WHO committee about the virus) and two others (Kim Prather from the US and David Fisman from Canada , the latter who talked about his conversion to understanding airborne transmission).  It’s all partly the result of efforts of folks with whom I’m working, so it’s great to see these kinds of results.

 
Amongst other things, Conly referred to a study awaiting peer review, purporting to show droplets are basically all that matter. He also claimed — inaccurately — that N95s harm pregnant women and can be dangerous to use because they can cause acne. (See the story for details.)
 
Second, it turns out that Conly was not playing by the rules. He didn’t declare his interest in heading up the WHO committee when he co-authored that paper with another person who is part of the “Great Barrington” group, which is denying all kinds of things around the virus and pandemic. That story is out today too, written by someone at the “Byline Times”. Their intro says:
A scientist with links to the co-founders of the ‘herd immunity’ Great Barrington Declaration has quietly secured funding from the World Health Organization (WHO) to produce a bizarre paper denying evidence that COVID-19 is airborne, Byline Times can exclusively reveal. Several members of the WHO committee which commissioned the paper appear to have benefited from the contract by showing up as co-authors of the very paper they contracted out without declaring the potential conflict of interest.
Finally, the peer review of the paper turned it down. See the devastating comments in the Reviewer Report at https://f1000research.com/articles/10-232/v1#referee-response-82591. Amongst other things, he points out the harm of excluding important relevant studies (e.g., animal ones) and concludes:
Finally, I do not think it would be appropriate – and I don’t want to risk wasting your time in reading yet further comments – for me to undertake any further point-by-point discussion/review of the conclusions which you have drawn from your chosen methods, since it is my contention that your chosen methods are so importantly flawed that the present manuscript should be completely re-written using methods with greater scientific validity, and including the whole range of available data towards SARS-CoV-2 transmission, as described. I hope this seems reasonable.
There are lots of studies about this too. Important ones are mentioned in the Canadian letters and press releases. Other recent ones include:

Then there are ethical issues.

Scientists and medical professionals have significant concerns about the ethics and design of an on-going study about masks or respirators for Canadian healthcare workers. They wrote the Canadian Secretariat on Responsible Conduct of Research, saying Our fundamental concern about the ethics of this study is that it exposes healthcare workers to COVID-19 infection by allowing them to wear surgical masks when engaged in patient care versus the respirators to which they would otherwise be entitled. Like other “essential workers” they need “airborne precautions” for airborne hazards. Surgical masks don’t do that.

The letter is the subject of an article in the Toronto Star on April 21. Lots of important additional information in it.

Ventilation

Guidance for specific jobs/sectors:

Cleaning and janitorial workers

Grocery store workers

Meat & poultry processing workers

Nail Salon Workers

Security guards

Schools

  • articles written for the New Jersey Education Association

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