Covid lessons from Japan

Great stuff in Science magazine:

Then, whereas much of the rest of the world built its response to the pandemic on widespread contact tracing, isolation, and testing, Japan adopted a “quite different” strategy, Oshitani says. “We try to identify the clusters and [determine] their common characteristics.”

Not surprisingly, they found that most clusters originated in gyms, pubs, live music venues, karaoke rooms, and similar establishments where people gather, eat and drink, chat, sing, and work out or dance, rubbing shoulders for relatively extended periods of time. They also concluded that most of the primary cases that touched off large clusters were either asymptomatic or had very mild symptoms. “It is impossible to stop the emergence of clusters just by testing many people,” Oshitani says. This led them to urge people to avoid what they dubbed the “three Cs”—closed spaces, crowds, and close-contact settings in which people are talking face-to-face. It sounds simple. But, “This has been the most important component of the strategy,” Oshitani says.

Damn, Japan has been on top of this.  And, the lack of subway transmission is a really, really interesting piece of the puzzle that suggests even more that it’s about vocalizing (and, maybe the extra heavy breathing from exercising) indoors.  And, when we talk about eating, drinking, singing, exercising, etc,. these are all activities that were presumably taking place without masks.  
There’s a lot we still don’t understand about this disease, but we have a pretty good idea about what not to do.  Alas, this is America, so we’ll be doing these things anyway and people will be dying.
Relatedly, I keep checking back on the case of the Great Clips in Missouri (I go to Great Clips!) where two stylists were infected and exposed over 140 clients.  For each haircut, both stylist and customer were wearing masks.  Following up on these 140 clients could tell us so much about just how much protection masks really offer us in preventing transmission in indoor spaces for prolonged interpersonal contacts.  Alas, google news searches never get me any new information.  I sure hope somebody is on this, though.
Until we know more, though, stick with those Japanese 3 C’s!
Natalie E. Dean, PhD on Twitter: "Avoid the three Cs! Japan was ...

About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State

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