Do Musical Instruments Spread the Coronavirus?

As with pretty much every other activity right now, having the quintet gather outdoors is a great idea. If any neighbors complain, explain that the backyard practices are part of a global effort to keep them from dying. If anyone happens to be infected, any virus that emanates in the heat of performance will likely fade into the sky and disperse like the music itself. Indoors, as any parent of a child who’s learning an instrument knows, everything is trapped and can echo around the room indefinitely.

Some instruments do seem to pose more risk than others. Obviously, string instruments can be played without even opening your mouth, but it sounds like your daughter’s quintet is too far along to take kindly to a suggestion that they all learn new instruments. Because the virus is sent into the air by talking, coughing, and singing—any forcible exhalation of air through the pharynx—playing a woodwind or brass instrument would logically pose a risk. These instruments are effectively designed to amplify what’s coming out of our mouths and to carry the sound. A 2011 study of vuvuzelas (the long, straight plastic horns that people blow at soccer games) found that their capacity for spreading infections could be tremendous. Compared with shouting, blowing through the horn sent several hundred times more particles into the air.

Thankfully for everyone, kids don’t train for vuvuzela quintets. Woodwind and brass instruments send air through a maze of twists and turns, and buttons create turbulent airflow patterns that don’t simply shoot everything out in a piercing plume. Breathing into a convoluted contraption such as a saxophone or a tuba, then, actually serves as a sort of filter that collects the larger droplets you might be spewing out. This is familiar to anyone who has emptied a spit valve and seen what pours out.

The real question is the potential danger of smaller, aerosolized particles that can blast out of an instrument and linger in the air. In May, the Vienna Philharmonic reported that it had conducted a study of the aerosols from various instruments. Researchers hooked tubes up to musicians’ noses, and as they played, they inhaled an aerosolized salt solution that could be visualized when it was exhaled. The researchers mapped the clouds of air around musicians while they were playing and reported that none of the instruments sent respiratory droplets beyond the commonly recommended radius of six feet. In most cases, no significant amount of the aerosolized salt particles were detectable coming out the end of the wind and brass instruments. Flutes were the worst offender, passing a “large amount” of aerosol in a cloud covering two and a half feet.

In July, another study in Germany offered findings and hope similar to those from Vienna. But neither study measured actual coronavirus particles, and the overall evidence is still thin. Doctors at the University of Iowa have expressed concern about the rigor of both findings, given

HCPS To Release Dashboard With Coronavirus Data

HARFORD COUNTY, MD — Harford County Public Schools will release a dashboard showing data with coronavirus information about confirmed cases of the virus in the school system.

So far, 12 employees have tested positive for the virus, according to Superintendent Sean Bulson. He said that 10 people who work for Harford County Public Schools had contracted the coronavirus as of Friday, and two other employees reported positive test results Monday, which was the first day of in-person instruction in the school system since March.

No students who attended the 41 Learning Support Centers tested positive for the virus since the centers opened Sept. 8, according to Harford County Public Schools Supervisor of Health Services Mary Nasuta.

Nasuta and Bulson provided the update on coronavirus cases at Monday’s Harford County Board of Education meeting.

Cases were “not clustered at any one school” and “have been scattered,” Nasuta reported. “We don’t know exactly where people are getting COVID — it could be anywhere in the community.”

Later this month, the school system plans to release a dashboard with coronavirus data on its website. Each week, Harford County Public Schools expects to update the page with data such as the number of those who are quarantining and the number of confirmed cases, according to Nasuta.

During the Learning Support Center phase, Nasuta said the small number of people participating made it difficult to maintain confidentiality so the addition of more students and teachers would make it more feasible to protect people’s health information while releasing data to the public.

Once it goes live, the dashboard will be housed on hcps.org/hcpstogether.

“Barring any unforeseen issues, my plan is to release it on Friday, October 23, 2020,” Jillian Lader, manager of communications for Harford County Public Schools, told Patch in an email Tuesday.

Harford County Public Schools will not be alone in publishing coronavirus data.

In neighboring Pennsylvania, one district is releasing data by school.

Here in Maryland, Towson University created a page with coronavirus data showing the results of coronavirus tests of students and faculty/staff at the university’s health center.

Harford County has its own coronavirus dashboard through the Harford County Health Department. The Maryland Department of Health also maintains a dashboard that breaks down data by county, age and other information. In addition, the state has a dashboard for congregate living cases.

Harford County has about 2.5 percent of the coronavirus cases in Maryland. It represents about 4.2 percent of the state’s population.

There have been 3,288 confirmed cases of the virus in Harford County as of Oct. 13, according to the Maryland Department of Health, which reports 73 people in the county have died from COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus.

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This article originally appeared on the Bel Air Patch

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Coronavirus UK: Man who couldn’t see a dentist pulls out own teeth

A labourer who lost his income during lockdown pulled out two of his own teeth with pliers and downed eight cans of Stella Artois to numb the pain because he couldn’t get a dental appointment due to the coronavirus crisis.

Chris Savage, 42, resorted to yanking two of his own teeth out in his bedroom because he couldn’t register with a dentist or book an emergency appointment, calling last Thursday’s procedure ‘the most horrible thing I’ve ever done’.

He said he had been in ‘agony’ for days, and revealed that just touching the tooth with his rusty pair of pliers set off waves of ‘agonising pain’.

The labourer, from Southsea in Portsmouth, Hampshire, admitted to getting ‘very drunk’ beforehand by downing eight cans of Stella Artois to mask the pain before he pulled out the first tooth. He then waited a day before pulling out the second tooth.

His case has now been raised with the NHS by a health watchdog who said Mr Savage has been ‘severely let down’ by services in the city.

He said: ‘I ended up having to get very drunk the first time. Nobody wants to take part of their own face away with a set of pliers and no real painkillers.

‘I put the pliers on my tooth and the second I did that it hurt. So I took them away, waited five minutes, built up again and then thought I’ve just got to do it.

Chris Savage, 42, resorted to yanking two of his own teeth out in his bedroom because he couldn't register with a dentist or book an emergency appointment

Chris Savage, 42, resorted to yanking two of his own teeth out in his bedroom because he couldn’t register with a dentist or book an emergency appointment

The labourer said he had been in 'agony' for days, and revealed that just touching the tooth with his rusty pair of pliers set off waves of 'agonising pain'

The labourer said he had been in ‘agony’ for days, and revealed that just touching the tooth with his rusty pair of pliers set off waves of ‘agonising pain’

‘It was a proper yank, a grip and pull — there’s no mucking about once you get to the point it’s started coming out.’

Mr Savage added that though there wasn’t much blood there was ‘enough to be scary’, and that it was ‘worth the risk of infection’.

The father-of-three didn’t register with an NHS dentist when he moved to Portsmouth from Alton three years ago. He lost his two front teeth in a bicycle crash last year, and when he began to experience pain recently he called around 20 dental practices, none of whom were taking on new patients.

He then phoned 111, who directed him to a practice that had volunteered to do triage appointments during the pandemic to help the NHS, but was referred back to 111 when he contacted them.

‘It was like a massive game of pass the parcel’, he said.

Mr Savage signed up to receive Universal Credit during lockdown, leaving him with £50 a week for food and bills, meaning he was reluctant to spend the £100 per tooth it would have cost him to have them removed privately.

He said: ‘I could’ve waited a week — borrowed money, and had it done in hygienic

Bill Gates: ‘U.S. still has time to do a far, far better job’ on coronavirus

Gates went on to say that “now we’re engaged in something where we’re attacking the government’s top scientists” and “undermining the credibility of the person who’s the most knowledgeable,” referring to Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert.

President Donald Trump has undermined coronavirus warnings from health experts and his own administration since the early days of the pandemic. Trump has also repeatedly cast doubt on Fauci’s credibility in offering advice on the pandemic.

“Fortunately, Dr. Fauci has risen above the noise level, in talking about masks and best practices, and so the fact that they’re trying to undermine him for some reason, that just blows the mind,” Gates said on Tuesday.

Gates said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had also been targeted by the federal government and “not been allowed to speak out” since the start of the pandemic.

In early September, a Trump administration official pressured the CDC to alter a scientific report on the coronavirus. The president has also contradicted the CDC director on when a vaccine might become available.

“You couldn’t make a movie where the CDC was so undermined, that whether that director should stay in that job or not or just resign over it is a serious discussion,” Gates said.

When directly asked to grade Trump’s response to the pandemic, Gates criticized the administration for a lack of willingness to admit wrongdoing.

“Pretending that it’s just total lockdown versus total openness, that does no one any favors,” he said. “There are activities that should continue depending on your intensity. And let the experts articulate what’s going on here.”

But Gates also applauded the federal government for its $2 trillion economic stimulus package in March and the funding of research and trials for Covid-19 vaccines. He said the U.S. is “the exemplar” in this area, noting the nearly $10 billion that the White House’s Operation Warp Speed has thrown behind finding a vaccine and developing monoclonal antibody treatments.

Gates’ foundation, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, is a major funder of the World Health Organization and has given more than $350 million to support the global response to Covid-19.

Gates said the foundation is currently working on funding a second-generation set of vaccines and making deals with high-volume manufacturers that could lead to greater vaccine distribution globally.

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Japan supercomputer shows humidity affects aerosol spread of coronavirus

By Rocky Swift

TOKYO (Reuters) – A Japanese supercomputer showed that humidity can have a large effect on the dispersion of virus particles, pointing to heightened coronavirus contagion risks in dry, indoor conditions during the winter months.

The finding suggests that the use of humidifiers may help limit infections during times when window ventilation is not possible, according to a study released on Tuesday by research giant Riken and Kobe University.

The researchers used the Fugaku supercomputer to model the emission and flow of virus-like particles from infected people in a variety of indoor environments.

Air humidity of lower than 30% resulted in more than double the amount of aerosolised particles compared to levels of 60% or higher, the simulations showed.

The study also indicated that clear face shields are not as effective as masks in preventing the spread of aerosols. Other findings showed that diners are more at risk from people to their side compared to across the table, and the number of singers in choruses should be limited and spaced out.

There has been a growing consensus among health experts that the COVID-19 virus can be spread through the air. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) revised its guidance this month to say the pathogen can linger in the air for hours.

The Riken research team led by Makoto Tsubokura has previously used the Fugaku supercomputer to model contagion conditions in trains, work spaces, and class rooms.

Notably, the simulations showed that opening windows on commuter trains can increase the ventilation by two to three times, lowering the concentration of ambient microbes.

“People’s blind fear or unfounded confidence against the infection of COVID-19 is simply because it is invisible,” Tsubokura said.

(Reporting by Rocky Swift; Editing by Michael Perry)

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Iran at breaking point as it fights third wave of coronavirus



a man that is standing in the street: Photograph: Xinhua/Rex/Shutterstock


© Provided by The Guardian
Photograph: Xinhua/Rex/Shutterstock

Iran, the crucible of coronavirus in the Middle East, smashed two grim records this week, reporting its largest number of deaths in a single 24 hours since the outbreak started in March, and the largest number of new infections.

Iranian health officials openly admit Iran is deep into its third, and biggest, wave of the disease, and evidence suggests an exhausted and impoverished country is struggling to cope as trust in government diminishes, sanctions weaken the economy and hospitals report overcrowded intensive care units.

Mohammad Talebpour, the director of Sina hospital, the oldest in Tehran, predicted that if Iranians did not collectively take action and the disease persisted for another 18 months, as many as 300,000 could die. He said a third of the medical staff at his hospital had at one point contracted the disease.



a man holding a sign: A police officer wearing a face mask works on a street in Tehran, Iran.


© Photograph: Xinhua/Rex/Shutterstock
A police officer wearing a face mask works on a street in Tehran, Iran.

Covid-19 has so far killed 29,070 Iranians, according to widely challenged official statistics, including 254 on Wednesday alone, just down on the daily record set on 12 October of 272.

The number of people newly infected in the previous 24 hours was recorded as 4,108 on Wednesday, just down on the record of 4,392 on 8 October.

In an attempt to force reluctant Iranians to abide by social distancing rules, including the compulsory wearing of face masks in public, Hassan Rouhani’s government has introduced fines of up to $6.60, initially in Tehran.

Businesses face fines that could rise to $30 on the third offence. Since the monthly minimum wage is worth less than $60 after a sharp fall in the value of the currency, these fines are not trivial, but even so the health minister, Saeed Namaki, said he feared they would not be high enough to act as a deterrent.

Masks have been compulsory in indoor public spaces since July.

But Rouhani is an innately cautious centrist, nervous of a public backlash, and concerned by the state of the economy now predicted by the International Monetary Fund to contract by 5% this year. The government spokesman Ali Rabiei stressed on Tuesday that the fines were “a tool to achieve compliance, and not a goal in itself. The fine is a warning to exercise self-discipline”. He insisted all the income from the fines would go to the ministry of health to fight coronavirus.

No one knows if the fines will be rigorously imposed, or the punishment likely to be inflicted on those unable to pay. The police, the Basij paramilitary force and health inspectors will have powers to impose the fines, and offenders will have two weeks to make payment into a health ministry account,

But the much-criticised sight of Iranian police this week parading criminals on the back of trucks is a reminder, if needed, of the methods security services can deploy.

Iran has not hidden the disputes between officials over its handling of the crisis.

Mohammad Reza Zafarghandi,

Is Your State Doing Enough Coronavirus Testing?


The number of daily coronavirus tests being conducted in the United States is 65 percent of the level considered necessary to mitigate the spread of the virus, as many states struggle to increase testing.

10

states* meet the testing target

7

states are near the target

34

states are far below the target

AlaskaAla.Ark.Ariz.Calif.Colo.Conn.D.C.Del.Fla.Ga.HawaiiIowaIdahoIll.Ind.Kan.Ky.La.Mass.Md.MaineMich.Minn.Mo.Miss.Mont.N.C.N.D.Neb.N.H.N.J.N.M.Nev.N.Y.OhioOkla.Ore.Pa.R.I.S.C.S.D.Tenn.TexasUtahVa.Vt.Wash.Wis.W.Va.Wyo.

*Includes 9 states and Washington, D.C. States within 20 percent of the testing target are considered “near” the target.

An average of 962,000 tests per day were performed over the past week, according to data collected by the Covid Tracking Project, well below the current nationwide target of 1.5 million daily tests. The target, which is based on a methodology developed by researchers at the Harvard Global Health Institute, is different for each state and varies over time as infection rates change.

The figures for some states, marked with an asterisk (*) below, indicate one test reported for each individual tested, even if that person is tested more than once. The figures for the other states indicate the total number of specimens tested, including when an individual is tested more than once, which can lead to higher reported test numbers and lower positivity rates. For states that report both individuals and specimens tested, the table below will eventually be updated to indicate specimens tested, as that is the more common metric reported by states.

How each state’s current testing measures up

Average daily testing and hospitalizations in the last two weeks

Daily tests
per 100,000

Daily tests
per 100k

Percentage of
testing target

Percentage
of target

Positive
test rate

Positive
rate

Hospitalized
per 100,000

Hospital
per 100k

United States
U.S.

65Target

65Target

5%
Iowa*
Iowa

14

14

18%
Idaho
Idaho

14

14

23%
Wisconsin*
Wis.

14

14

20%
South Dakota*
S.D.

14

14

23%
Wyoming*
Wyo.

18

18

19%
Nevada*
Nev.

18

18

15%
Kansas*
Kan.

19

19

16%
Indiana*
Ind.

20

20

14%
Nebraska*
Neb.

24

24

13%
Alabama
Ala.

24

24

13%
Florida*
Fla.

30

30

11%
Montana
Mont.

31

31

11%
Mississippi
Miss.

31

31

11%
Oklahoma
Okla.

33

33

8%
North Dakota
N.D.

33

33

8%
Utah*
Utah

35

35

15%
Arizona*
Ariz.

39

39

7%
Delaware*
Del.

40

40

6%
Missouri
Mo.

43

43

7%
Arkansas
Ark.

44

44

7%
North Carolina
N.C.

48

48

6%
Tennessee
Tenn.

49

49

7%
Oregon*
Ore.

51

51

6%
Pennsylvania*
Pa.

51

51

8%
Maryland
Md.

54

54

6%
Georgia
Ga.

55

55

6%
Texas
Texas

56

56

7%
South Carolina
S.C.

58

58

5%
Kentucky
Ky.

58

58

5%
Virginia
Va.

60

60

5%
Minnesota
Minn.

62

62

5%
New Mexico
N.M.

74

74

4%
Alaska
Alaska

74

74

4%
Illinois

King County Coronavirus Cases Are On The Rise

SEATTLE, WA — Coronavirus activity continues to rise in King County, where increased case counts and transmission levels have left public health officials uneasy about the trajectory heading into the cold months.

Dr. Jeff Duchin, health officer for King County, hosted a news briefing Tuesday, outlining some concerning markers recorded across the county since Sept. 21.

“We expected it would be more challenging to manage COVID-19 during the fall and winter as we spend more time indoors and environmental conditions favor the spread of infection,” Duchin said. “The trends we’re seeing today should be a wake-up call for everyone. The longer we wait, the more difficult it gets to change the trajectory of an increasing outbreak. If we let it get away from us now, we may be in for a very dark time over the coming months.”

Washington’s most populous county has seen the highest number of positive cases in the state since the pandemic began. After two months of progress, that number is again trending in the wrong direction.

“Since the 21st of September, transmission and cases have been increasing in King County and regionally, as well as in many states across the country,” Duchin said. “Last week, we had over 1,000 cases reported in King County, and we’re having over 140 cases reported each day over the past week.”

The latest numbers are more than twice the trends seen in September. While record testing plays a role in the increase, Duchin said, the county’s testing positivity rate and the virus’s reproductive number have also grown, indicating increased transmission.

King County’s 14-day rate of cases has grown to 89 illnesses per 100,000 residents, a key indicator that places the county back in the highest bracket for transmission risk. In late September, that number had dropped to 50, landing the county in the low end of the moderate range.

Duchin said hospitalizations remain “relatively stable,” but have increased by one third. Increases have been recorded across all age groups, but particularly in young people and middle-aged adults. Over the last week, those ages 18-24 currently have seen the highest rate of infection, followed by people ages 25-34.

According to the county’s data, about 10 percent of cases in the last week were linked to an outbreak associated with the University of Washington’s Greek system. As of Tuesday, at least 242 students among 17 sororities and fraternities have tested positive since early September.

“As that tells us, this outbreak is large, but it is not responsible for all of the increase that we’re seeing in the county,” Duchin said.

Over the past two weeks, suspected exposures were “broadly distributed,” Duchin said, with 40 percent of cases acquired within the household, 30 percent from social events and other activities and 16 percent among essential workers.

The county’s rate of deaths continues to remain stable, with six to nine reported per week over the last month and mostly confined to patients over 80 years old. If community transmission becomes widespread,

Coronavirus Vaccine Makers Are Not Mass-Slaughtering Sharks

Several companies in the race for a coronavirus vaccine have stumbled upon a new and unexpected hurdle: activists protesting the use of a substance that comes from sharks in their products.

The oily compound, called squalene, is churned out by shark livers and has immunity-boosting powers, which has led several companies to use it as an ingredient in vaccines. A group called Shark Allies has mounted a campaign calling on the Food and Drug Administration and other regulatory bodies to halt the sourcing of the compound from sharks, warning that mass distribution of a coronavirus vaccine could require harvesting tissue from more than 500,000 sharks.

The call to action made headlines around the globe. But the story on shark squalene isn’t as clear-cut as it might at first seem.

Companies commonly use squalene as a moisturizing additive in cosmetics and sunscreens. But the substance has also been occasionally used in vaccines as an adjuvant — a chemical that kick-starts the immune system into action, driving stronger, longer-lasting protection against disease.

Although adjuvants aren’t necessary for all vaccines, they can make or break certain recipes. By boosting products’ immunity-priming powers, they can also increase the immunization’s efficiency, giving the vaccine’s ingredients more bang for their buck and freeing up supplies for more doses.

Shark livers are considered among the best sources of the compound. Between 63 million and 273 million sharks die at the hands of humans each year, and liver oil is harvested from at least a couple million of them, according to Catherine Macdonald, a shark biologist in Florida.

Two of the companies under the scrutiny of Shark Allies are GlaxoSmithKline and Seqirus, which each manufacture adjuvants that contain about 10 milligrams of squalene per dose. Those ingredients are found in a number of coronavirus vaccines currently being tested in humans, including products from Sanofi, Medicago and Clover Biopharmaceuticals, which have all partnered with GSK.

According to one estimate, between 2,500 and 3,000 sharks are needed per metric ton of squalene. Shark Allies extrapolated from these statistics to arrive at their widely quoted numbers tabulating the potential ecological toll on sharks.

Such estimates are difficult to make.

Dr. Macdonald pointed out that sharks — of which there are more than 500 species worldwide — vary in size, weight and liver squalene content. The number of sharks required to yield enough squalene-adjuvanted vaccine doses to treat everyone on Earth is thus likely to be a “huge range,” she said. Her own calculations for this statistic stretch between tens of thousands and more than a million, depending on how many doses are needed per person.

It’s also the case that of the dozens of vaccine candidates in clinical trials in people, most don’t include squalene. To only rely on vaccines that use shark-based squalene, “a ton of other promising candidates would have to fail — they would have to be the last vaccines standing,” said Saad

One client in one spin studio that followed all the rules triggers a coronavirus outbreak with at least 61 cases

SPINCO, in Hamilton, Ontario, just reopened in July and had all of the right protocols in place, including screening of staff and attendees, tracking all those in attendance at each class, masking before and after classes, laundering towels and cleaning the rooms within 30 minutes of a complete class, said Dr. Elizabeth Richardson, Hamilton’s medical officer of health, in a statement.

But it still wasn’t enough.

Public health officials are very concerned about the number of cases and the size of the outbreak, especially because the city is not currently a hotspot and the facility was not ignoring health protocols, they said in a statement to CNN.

“They have also supported public health services in our investigation by sharing the messaging with all their members,” said Richardson.

There are currently 44 confirmed positive primary cases associated with SPINCO and 17 confirmed secondary cases. Exposure was linked to several classes held from September 28 to October 4.

The studio’s co-owners, Naz Zarezadegan and Ira Price, told The Hamilton Spectator on Monday that public health officials told them “patient zero displayed no symptoms.”

In a post to clients on Instagram, SPINCO exclaimed in frustration, “We took all the measures public health offered, even added a few, and still the pandemic struck us again!'”

SPINCO said it will stay closed pending further investigation by health officials.

City officials say SPINCO was operating at 50% capacity, with a 6-foot radius around each bike, and that this might raise questions about the safety of gyms and fitness studios during the pandemic.

“We continue to look at what does it mean, what do we need to understand about exercises classes,” Richardson said in a media briefing Tuesday.

Canada is reckoning with a second wave of the coronavirus which has been marked by a doubling of new, daily positive cases of Covid-19 within the past month. Targeted restrictions and closures are in place in many urban centers including Toronto and Montreal, but not in Hamilton.

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