The viral formula

I have seen the COVID-19 viral formula explained this way:

infection = exposure + time

The closer you come to someone who is carrying the virus, and the more time you spend near them, the more likely your chances are of contracting it.

It’s a simple (and simplified) formula, but it explains many things.

1. First, it explains why medical professionals wear additional protective equipment, why they place coronavirus patients in negative-pressure rooms, and why they have always (until recent shortages) disposed of PPE after every encounter.

2. It helps clarify why health officials promote social distancing, hand washing and mask usage, while cautioning against gatherings and rooms being filled to full occupancy.

3. It reveals why it’s completely unnecessary to wear a mask while driving alone in your car, when you’re outdoors and not in close proximity to others, or anytime you are in public or private spaces by yourself or with your immediate family.

4. It helps explain why the use of facial coverings falls short as a preventative measure, as cloth masks are not sufficient protection against prolonged exposure and close contact.

5. Last, it helps explain why we’ve had so many cases in congregate settings like prisons, jails, residential facilities and nursing homes. When a virus enters indoor spaces filled with many people, it can spread.

That spread turns deadly when such spaces are filled with more vulnerable populations such as the elderly and infirm.

In Shelby County, 329 cases are attributed to clusters from nursing homes, which is 8% of the 4,005 total cases confirmed as of today.

We’ve also seen 35 fatalities in these facilities, which is 40% of the 88 total deaths locally.

Statewide, 986 nursing home residents are 5% of Tennessee’s total of 18,532 cases. Of these, 108 have lost their lives, making up 35% of the state’s 309 fatalities.

What’s abundantly clear is we need to stop trying to force Sally and Johnny on the sidewalk to wear a mask and instead devote our attention to how we can better safeguard our most vulnerable loved ones.