Weekly readings – 21st Jan 2020

The Dos and Don’ts of ‘Social Distancing’

Implementation of Mitigation Strategies for Communities with Local COVID-19 Transmission

Open Table Reservation Data

The economics of cruise ships

The NYC Subway’s new tap-to-pay system has a hidden cost – Rider data

How hand sanitizers were made

CDC report on Coronavirus with data up to 16 March

How coffee won the world over

A sterling review of the new Macbook Air

CDC’s recommendations on prevention of Coronavirus and the current confusion

It was reported this afternoon that Nebraska had the first COVID-19 case of the state. Specifically, a 36-year-old woman living in Omaha, the city where I am residing, was infected after returning from UK. It’s definitely not the news with which anyone in Omaha wants to start the weekend.

I left my office early to stock up my doomsday supplies. To be clear, I wasn’t panicking. I wasn’t wearing a mask out on the streets or a protective gear. Nonetheless, it wouldn’t hurt to be prepared.

While on the shopping trip, I noticed that alcohol-based hand sanitizers were in short supply. I couldn’t find any at Bakers or Walmart, but hand soap is still available and at a cheap price (even less than $1). What makes hand sanitizers such a hot commodity? Why isn’t hand soap as sought after?

It may be because alcohol-based hand sanitizers are included in the recommendation by the Center of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the message is inaccurately transmitted verbally or through social media. In fact, here is verbatim what the CDC recommends on their website:

Avoid close contact with people who are sick.

Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth

Stay home when you are sick

Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash

Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe

CDC does not recommend that people who are well wear a facemask to protect themselves from respiratory diseases, including COVID-19. Facemasks should be used by people who show symptoms of COVID-19 to help prevent the spread of the disease to  others. The use of facemasks is also crucial for health workers and people who are taking care of someone in close settings (at home or in a health care facility).

Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing. If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol. Always wash hands with soap and water if hands are visibly dirty

Source: CDC

Reading the recommendations by CDC, I couldn’t help but notice that there is some misleading and confusing advice floating around online. Firstly, it’s not like you shouldn’t touch your face at all. The CDC clearly singles out which parts of your face should be left alone. Secondly, masks should be worn by sick people only. The high demand for masks from healthy folks is quite baffling. Lastly and this brings us back to the observation I had today, hand soap should work as long as you remember to get up and visit the restroom frequently. Instead of paying $10 or more for hand sanitizers, perhaps hand soap and water?

Experts said, per ProPublica, that hand sanitizers that have less than 60% alcohol may not work against Coronavirus.