What We Now Know About SARS-CoV-2

Earlier this year, we were hoping that the novel coronavirus will be less threatening during the summer period. Cases in the United States had continued to rise and countries in tropical areas were equally vulnerable to the spread of COVID-19. We also thought that the virus was spread mainly by droplets which probably did not travel as far as 6 feet from the source. Now, there is enough evidence that SARS-CoV-2 could be airborne and therefore, could travel much farther. What remains, of course, is the required conditions before we could safely open schools. There is no possibility of transmission if there are no active cases. This condition unfortunately remains elusive at the moment. A vaccine seems the only way to get out of this predicament but in all honesty, a safe vaccine is still so many months away. But we can control this pandemic if we understand its transmission and act accordingly. And one thing is clear, we must avoid indoor gatherings. Using data on SARS-CoV-2 transmission, researchers in the UK and the USA have developed a guide on the risks of getting COVID-19

The guide is presented as a matrix (shown below) indicating that social distancing and wearing masks are actually oversimplified guidelines. One must take into account as well the difference between outdoors and indoors, between crowded and uncrowded, and between activities.

Above copied from BMJ

For activities like shouting and singing, wearing a mask, social distancing and staying outdoors are all necessary for a low risk of transmission. Indoors at these conditions even if the room is well ventilated only stay low risk for a short time. In crowded gatherings, even with wearing a mask, it still remains medium-risk when shouting or singing, and if social distancing is not maintained. 

With this guide, it can be seen that, at the moment, the only safe way to reopen schools is to hold classes outdoors with both wearing face masks and social distancing. With the coming of cold weather and lack of outdoor spaces, this approach does not look promising.

It is with great sacrifice that classes are not being held in person right now. Schools remaining closed at this time should contribute to lowering the transmission of COVID-19 but every activity in society must do the same. Otherwise, this sacrifice becomes useless. Bars, churches, restaurants and gyms should remain closed. Without a vaccine, this is the only way the number of COVID-19 cases in a community can become under control.