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 regularly, although they’ve slowed down by September, 2021. Many 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.
The Canadian Aerosol Transmission Coalition has organised and sent out these letters and press releases, making recommendations to government leaders and public health officials.
- January 4, 2021 letter: There is still time to address aerosol transmission of COVID-10/Il est temps de parler de la transmission de la COVID-19 par aérosols and the signatures
- Public Health Agency of Canada response to the January 4th letter
- Manitoba Workplace Safety and Health Branch response to the January 4th letter
- February 19 follow-up letter: The science is clear: Protective measures must fully account for aerosol transmission of the virus, as we said in January/La science est claire : les mesures de protection doivent intégrer la transm ssion par aérosols du virus, comme nous l’avions dit en janvier
- Press release with February 19, 2021 letter: The science is clear. Scientists and others renew call on governments to recognise aerosol transmission, update guidance and enforcement
- Saskatchewan government response to the February 19th letter
- Press release, April 16, 2021: There’s no excuse left. We need new, stronger measures to deal with COVID-19’s airborne transmission / Il n’y a plus d’excuse. Nous avons besoin de nouvelles mesures plus fortes pour faire face à la transmission aérienne de la COVID-19
- Letter to leaders of federal political parties, copied to provincial premier and territorial leaders, September 2, 2021. Canadians need stronger, consistent protections from COVID-19! Will you commit to include the following actions in your electoral platform? / Les Canadiens ont besoin de protections plus solides et cohéerentes contre la COVID-19! Vous engagez-vous à inclure les actions suivantes dans votre programme électorale?
- December 23, 2021 (Yes, we’re still at it, saying pretty much what we said a year ago.) A call to action — Practical solutions based on public health fundamentals for homes and workplaces / Solutions pratiques basées sur les connaissances
fondamentales de la santé publique pour la maison et les milieux de travail. Supported by / supporté par Canadian Registration Board for Occupational Hygienists, COVID-STOP, Masks4Canada, Occupational Hygiene Association of Ontario, Protect our Province (Alberta, B.C., Québec), Workplace Health Without Borders, World Health Network, Zero COVID Canada.
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
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.
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, 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:
- Covid-19 has redefined airborne transmission. Improving indoor ventilation and air quality will help us all to stay safe (British Medical Journal, April 14, 2021)
- Ten scientific reasons in support of airborne transmission of SARS-CoV2, published in The Lancet, April 15, 2021
- Indoor air changes and potential implications for SARS-CoV2 transmission, published April 16, 2021 in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
- Leading health organizations call on OSHA and CDC to issue guidance on preventing occupational exposures due to aerosol transmission of SARS CoV-2, includes a statement from the American Industrial Hygiene Association
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.
Cleaning and disinfecting — the hazards and options:
- Alert: Disinfecting can be hazardous to all staff and students
- Cleaning and disinfecting in a pandemic — hazards, “hygiene theatre” and less — for your health
- Cleaning to fight COVID-19 in schools and at home
- Cleaning your facility (CDC’s April 5, 2021 update)
- Concerns about disinfectant foggers, misters, electrostatic sprayers
- Design for Environment Certified disinfectants (the least toxic possible — all the active ingredients are on Health Canada’s list)
- Hygiene theatre or cleaning? What are the hazards and options?
- Safer cleaning practices for the workplace
- American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH) COVID-19 resources
- Ventilation resources for workplaces to prevent transmission of COVID-19
Guidance for specific jobs/sectors:
Cleaning and janitorial workers
Grocery store workers
Meat & poultry processing workers
Nail Salon Workers
- articles written for the New Jersey Education Association