Roger Koops provides needed context and perspective about coronavirus and useless symbolic gestures that have themselves gone viral. His article is The Year of Disguises. There is much valuable information at the linked essay, of which only some excerpts are here in italics with my bolds.
2020 is a year of disguises. Some examples include;
- computer models/modelers disguised as “science/scientists,”
- Tyrants/Dictators/Totalitarians disguised as “elected officials,”
- propaganda machines disguised as “news sources,”
- brainwashing disguised as “information,”
- censorship disguised as “public health safeguard,”
- panic and fear disguised as “social responsibility.”
Even the virus itself has been disguised by humans as an “apocalypse.” But, the last part is not the doing of the virus, but the doings of a select number of humans who are responsible for many of the other disguises as well. And if you look at the totality of events in 2020, it is clear that the average citizen has been treated generally less than human, certainly not as adults in any case.
I believe we are in as great a crisis as a species as we have ever been. The crisis is not from some seasonal virus (which is a health issue), but it is from ourselves and what we have devolved into as a species (social, cultural, ideological issues).
I have debated with myself on how to approach the following essay. Under normal circumstances, it would be easy. But, the topic has been so warped and sensationalized into political and social hyperbole, it is difficult to get a handle on it. I could go at it strictly from a scientific perspective, but that would tune many people out.
After about two weeks of my own internal debate and several versions, I have decided to treat the readers of this essay as Human Adults. I will try to not get too technical but rather use rational arguments to approach the issue of a viral infection from the perspective of the virus molecule outside of the host, i.e., the natural environment.
Computer modeling is “a” tool, not “the” tool. The model is only as good as the assumptions put into the model. It has been clear from the start that the modelers have NO idea of how a virus works in the natural world. They have based their modeling on the assumption that the culprit is the human being. The human being must be controlled in order to control the virus. This is completely wrong. I hope to present arguments that illustrate the weaknesses of the modeling concepts.
The natural perceptive abilities, i.e. the physical senses, of human beings are quite poor. For example, we can see only a very, very small part of the electromagnetic spectrum. Smaller things, things we cannot see we have trouble with. We live, and have always lived, in a world with things that are far smaller than our ability to detect without some instrumental aid. For example, when I tell people that their bodies are mostly empty space, they scoff. We have solid substance, they say, we can feel it. I respond that the reason we feel it is solid is because that is how our brain interprets it.
Bacteria and fungi, at the cellular level, exist at the micron scale (see the scale diagram below). But, they have the cellular machinery to grow on their own, i.e., their cells will divide and multiply as long as they have nutrients. We cannot see them normally without a microscope. But, if they keep growing, eventually we can see them (as things such as moldy bread, or mildew on the wall), or even feel them (old vegetables that get a “slimy” feeling actually have a bacterial plaque on their surface). Both bacteria and fungi can form “spores” to protect themselves under harsh conditions. It is a form of hibernation.
We have bacteria and fungi in our bodies constantly. Our immune system usually keeps them at bay, or more accurately, keeps them in balance. However, if our immune system weakens, or if a balance is shifted towards the bacteria/fungi, the balance can tip in their favor and we can experience disease. We tend to have more difficulty with control of bacterial/fungal infections than viral infections.
In fact, the most common cause of a fatal outcome due to viral infection, including coronavirus, is a bacterial infection.
The reason the second week of infection is considered the worry stage is NOT because of the virus; rather this is the time when a weakened immune system, either by exposure or by losing the balance battle cannot prevent the bacteria/fungi from taking off. Most people who die from influenza, coronavirus, even rhinovirus, do so primarily from pneumonia (bacterial infection) or some other systemic bacterial infection.
The Virus: What are we dealing with?
My Doctoral degree is in “organic” chemistry, specifically, chemistry involving carbon-based compounds. Chemistry is about working with problems at a molecular level. Guess what a virus like coronavirus is? It is a complex organic molecule. Organic chemists would call it a “macromolecule” where “macro” means large. It is only considered “large” in comparison to small molecules. I am naturally inclined to look at a virus like coronavirus as an organic molecule.
Coronavirus (CV) and influenza (IF) are very similar at the molecular level. Both are ribonucleic acid (RNA) viruses and both are enveloped helical (meaning that they have a similar 3- dimensional structure with a protein outer part and the RNA inside). CV is a positive strand RNA and IF is a negative strand RNA. This means they have opposite structures much like you have a left hand and a right hand. Their viral class identification is different partly for that reason.
Both CV and IF behave almost the same outside of the body and this is due to their size, structure, and relative chemical similarities. On average, both are about the same size, ranging around 100 ±30 nanometers or nm (CV can range smaller in size than IF). For consistency purposes, I will refer to both of them at the 100 nm size, which is reasonably accurate (nm is 10-9 meter (0.000000001 meter), a micron (μm) is 10-6 meter (0.000001 meter). The meter is about 10% longer than a yard, or 39.37 inches so 1 micron is 0.00003937 inch.
As the chart shows, both CV and IF as a molecule outside of the body are VERY, VERY small. They are undetectable without the use of an electron microscope. We simply cannot detect it in the natural environment. The tip of your finger, maybe 1 square millimeter, can literally pick up tens of millions of virus particles and you could not see any of them.
Most molecules have conditions that can render them either more stable or less stable. Clearly, with an infectious disease molecule, we would want to try and break it apart, or not give it stability. Breaking it apart usually renders it inert; i.e. non-infectious.
In an outdoor environment, we know that the CV/IF molecule will start to break apart within minutes or maybe last an hour or two. The local environmental conditions will determine how fast the molecule breaks up. We know that heat and ultraviolet (UV) radiation are pretty good at breaking it up.
There are things that chemically will help break it up. For example, saline conditions, like in an ocean are good (it may be considered a “natural disinfectant”). There are man-made disinfectants such as bleach. We know that CV/IF are not stable under pH of 3 or over a pH of 10. So if the molecule encounters either natural or man-made conditions that deal with these pHs, the molecule will break up. Common soaps are good for breaking up the molecule. This is why there is the recommendation to wash with soap and water.
Likewise, there are conditions that increase the stability of the molecule. Both CV/IF survive longer under colder conditions. This is probably one reason why they tend to favor winter months and colder climates.
The Virus in Disease Transmission
The “rationale” for lockdowns, masks, distancing, etc. all rest on the assumption that human direct transmission is the greatest risk for disease. Anyone, at any given time, in any place can pass the virus to another. It sort of reminds me of the character “Cofi” in the movie “The Green Mile.” People seem to be convinced that somehow, the only way to catch this virus is because it makes a beeline from person to person. In other words, we are the culprits.
But, is this really the case? In short, “No” and here is why.
Because of the modeler’s view, if we imprison people (“lockdown” – a term used in penal institutions when prisoners become unruly), cover their faces (“masking”), and keep them from doing what people do, i.e. socializing (“distancing”), we can stop the virus. This concept is what “wanna-be” dictators all over the world have embraced.
This is NONSENSE. Certainly, you can get infected that way but that is only one way of many ways. It may not even be the main way. It is “losing sight of the forest for the trees.”
Aerosols and droplets, after leaving the mouth/nose will quickly lose their moisture, i.e. the water base will evaporate. The smaller the particle, the quicker this will happen. With aerosols, it may be within a fraction of a second. Environmental conditions will also affect the timing. Warmer and dryer conditions will speed up evaporation while colder and more humid conditions will slow it down. Studies have indicated that under most normal temperature conditions, aerosols and droplets less than 100 micron in size evaporate before they hit the ground.
What happens to the hitchhiking virus? IT IS STILL THERE! It does not evaporate. It has lost its ride but it is still there.
What happens to it now? It can go anywhere, i.e. it can be dispersed just like the free molecule. It will last as long as it is stable. It can be carried by the wind (outdoors) or by air movements or HVAC (indoors). It can hitch a ride with other carrier things (outdoor examples such as above). It can land on surfaces, any surface, whether indoors or outdoors. Animals or even insects can carry the molecule if it lands on them. If it lands on another person, it can land on their clothes, hair, skin, etc. and be carried by them. If it happens to get sucked into the respiratory tract or absorbed on the eye, it may eventually lead to infection if it can survive the body defenses. The possibilities really are endless.
It should be easy to see why a lockdown is disastrous. A single sick person can spread a virus throughout a whole building and no one would know it until too late. Clearly, air handling, sanitation, people movement, shared items, all will play a significant role in transmission risk.
Further, indoor conditions are better generally for stability and survival of the molecule. Why are meat processing/packing plants at risk? They are refrigerated facilities. There are many people so there is a lot of movement. There are many surfaces for the molecule to sit, like carcasses, that are handled often and routinely.
What Difference do Masks Make?
The idea of “masks” on people did not suddenly appear in March of 2020. The usage of face protection with infectious diseases has been well studied, especially with influenza. Do not forget, the mechanics of these two viruses (CV/IF) are essentially the same so what works or doesn’t work for one is the same for the other.
The understanding has been that a “mask,” and that term usually refers to either a SURGICAL mask or N95 mask, has no benefit in the general population and is only useful in controlled clinical settings. Further, it has been considered a greater transmission risk than a benefit in the general population. If people still have a memory, you may recall that this was still the advice in February 2020. That understanding has not changed and I will explain why.
I could spend time on the viral transmission ineffectiveness of the variety of face coverings and fitted masks based upon the material, pore size, non-fit, etc., as well as the studies. I will say that there has been only ONE type of mask, the SURGICAL mask, which has shown any ability to reduce, not eliminate, virus transmission because it is actually rated to a 100 nanometer pore size AND it is rated for ingress and egress. But, the SURGICAL mask is not intended for use outside of a controlled, sterile hospital surgical field where its use and function can be controlled. It has limitations.
So, the face covering acts as an intermediary in transmission. It can alter the timing of the virus getting into the environment, but it now acts as a contact source and airborne source; virus can still get into the environment. Since we know that the stability is good on most covering and mask materials, it does nothing to break down the virus until the covering is removed and either washed or discarded (appropriately).
Here is an important point, as more virus molecules accumulate, more are expelled. The face covering is not some virus black hole that sucks the virus into oblivion.
This is a common sight with most face coverings, including the “stylish” coverings that people are wearing (I often see the covering moving back and forth against their mouth and nose even as they breathe, like a diaphragm), as well as with the cheaper dust masks and homemade cloth masks. If you inhale, you can become contaminated. If you touch the face covering, such as pulling it up and down, you can become contaminated.
Further, because the surface is contaminated, a person can also expel the virus back out into the environment just as with egress. This can be done by talking, breathing, coughing, etc.
Stopping a *droplet* is NOT the same as stopping the virus!
It boggles my mind when there is some notion that by wearing a face covering you are actually doing a “service” to your neighbor and therefore everyone has to protect everyone by this. Actually, the opposite is true. You are now becoming an additional potential source of environmental contamination. You are now becoming a transmission risk; not only are you increasing your own risk but you are also increasing the risk to others.
I cannot tell people to not wear a face covering. I chose not to wear face coverings for two reasons, the first is all of the above, and the second is that I have experienced this virus. When I see people with them, I think of virus heaven. But, I am also not afraid because this virus does not frighten me.
My view of dealing with the virus is at the molecular level. Do what we can to actually deplete the molecule, not give it stability.
We cannot eliminate this or any other upper respiratory virus.
Maybe someday we can advance our immunological techniques to the point that it might be possible to make it a minor player in humans, but we are not there yet. But, we can defend against it by our immune systems and by trusting those with stronger immune systems to protect the weaker. Despite the propaganda, herd immunity was the standard before March 2020; it is not a “fringe” concept.
What is the Way Forward?
It is time for human beings to be human beings again. Stop trying to lay blame and guilt on people for a natural virus.
If governments want to be helpful in reducing severe disease and deaths, imposing more laws and restrictions is not the answer. Rather, focus on educating people on how to better maintain their immune systems. Encourage healthier lifestyles through education and wellness programs, especially in the less fortunate of our society. Provide or encourage businesses to consider better sick leave alternatives for people in ALL jobs/vocations so that people are not driven by the choice of work to live or stay home and be sick.
The healthy people in our society should not be punished for being healthy, which is exactly what lockdowns, distancing, mask mandates, etc. do. This goes completely against the principles on which the United States of America was founded. We have lost the meaning of “Land of the Free, Home of the Brave” to “Land of the Imprisoned, Home of the Afraid.”
Roger W. Koops holds a Ph.D. in Chemistry from the University of California, Riverside as well as Master and Bachelor degrees from Western Washington University. He worked in the Pharmaceutical and Biotechnology Industry for over 25 years. Before retiring in 2017, he spent 12 years as a Consultant focused on Quality Assurance/Control and issues related to Regulatory Compliance. He has authored or co-authored several papers in the areas of pharmaceutical technology and chemistry.