Frequently Asked Questions About COVID-19

  “Shared expectations lead to predictability.”


  1. Connecticut children to continue to wear masks in school.  

          Q. How did that court case come out to prevent school children from wearing masks? 

          A:  As previously discussed in this column[1] Judge Thomas G. Moukawsher of the Hartford District Court in Connecticut promised to rule on a recent case.  This was a request for an injunction on the state requirement requiring children in schools to wear masks.  The claim had been made that children wearing face masks are harmed both mentally and physically.   A hearing was held.  Judge Moukawsher has now issued an 11-page ruling denying the requested injunction.  He stated that the plaintiffs had not proven their claim that masks cause mental and physical harm to children.  He also cited that of the 118 school districts in Connecticut, some 200 exemptions under the existing policy had already been given.  His findings concluded there is no emergency caused by the requirement that children must wear masks when attending school.

  1. Using the science of epidemiology, Australia has nearly eliminated COVID-19.

          Q: Is there any hope we can return to normal activities in the future?

          A:  The Washington Post on November 5 reported that Australia, a nation of 26 million is close to eliminating the COVID-19 pandemic just as infections surge again in Europe and the United States.  In Australia, recent travelers are being quarantined in hotel rooms.  Other than those in quarantine, only seven cases of COVID-19 have been reported in the past 5 days.  In Melbourne, the last reported case was on October 30.   The Sidney Opera House has reopened, and an estimated 40,000 spectators attended the rugby finals.

Among the reasons for this success were the decision taken to quickly close and seal the nation’s border, and expanding the staffing to track and isolate any new cases.  “The lack of partisan rancor” is also cited as a factor that allowed voluntary cooperation with these guidelines.  This has allowed for the nearly complete re-opening of Australia’s economy.

  1. Pfizer announces its test vaccine effective rate is 90%

          Q: How long will it be before there is an effective vaccine?

          A: On November 9, Dr. Albert Bouria. Chairman and CEO of Pfizer, Inc. released data on that company’s clinical phase 3 trails of the COVID-19 vaccine it had developed.  In this release it was determined the trial vaccine has an effective rate of 90%.  For every 100 people who received it, 90 were protected from becoming infected.  More data is being developed now to document the safety of the product.  In a few weeks, the company will submit the data to the FDA for review.  The review of all this data will be done by an established board of experts, none of whom have any financial or political interest.  If an emergency use authorization (EUA) is granted, the activation of the logistics of distribution – part of the administration’s “warp speed” project that is being operated by the US military – will then be invoked.  Connecticut has written a 77-page COVID-19 distribution plan, and will be ready to receive and set up the required vaccination centers.  One important consideration is the need for “super-cold” storage up to the point of patients receiving each injection.  This storage must be minus 94 degrees Fahrenheit!   Few hospitals and clinics and doctors’ offices can provide this – even the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota does not have this capability.   Kavita Patel, MD had previously served in the Obama Administration, and is now a primary care physician who has studied the issues of coronavirus-19.  She has predicted that the Pfizer vaccine won’t be taken by enough people to provide substantial public protection until the summer or fall of 2021.  But it is reassuring to know that an effective vaccine is able to be developed.

 151.  The CDC has revised its definition of “close contact” used in tracking program.

          Q:  We are told when outdoors to avoid close contact with others without wearing a mask.  What does this mean?

          A:  The CDC has revised its definition of “close contact.”  Previously, it was defined as a total of 15 consecutive minutes within six feet of an infected patient.  The new guidance, which health departments rely on to conduct contact tracing, now defines it as “Someone who was within six feet of an infected person for a cumulative total of 15 minutes or more over a 24-hour period starting from 2 days before illness onset (or, for asymptomatic patients, 2 days prior to test specimen collection) until the time the patient is isolated.”

In summary, this revision is a reflection on the basic consideration that a person is at greater risk of becoming infected if the concentration of virons reaches a critical level for entering the mouth, nose and eyes of a healthy person (distance and time) within a 24-hour period.  This now means that three separate 5-minute contacts in a day now add up to a total of 15 minutes and would be considered a close contact.

One can use this for guidance to manage risk.  Actions taken to minimize exposure each day to be below “close contact” is a good rule to follow.  Avoiding multiple short errands in several stores in a 24-hour period is to reduce risks.  Social distancing is already identified as a good practice, but avoiding many intermittent shorter distances that can add up to become a “close contact” will help.  The new Connecticut Phase 2.1 gives guidance for different agencies.  For restaurants, “up to 8 people at a table,” for private social and recreational gatherings “capacity of 10 people,” and for religious gatherings “up to 50% capacity with masks and social distancing required.”  Each of these situational examples require detailed analysis.  Using this revised CDC guidance, we can base our separate decisions on the science of prevention rather than “following the rules.”

[1] See FAQ #147