Orem's 311 service center has new normal 03

A face mask hangs in a cubicle at Orem’s 311 Help Center within Orem City Center on Tuesday, June 9, 2020. Isaac Hale, Daily Herald

With all of the information swirling around about COVID-19 over the last few months, there’s understandably been a lot of confusion. Let’s take a few minutes and clarify some of them.

1) The World Health Organization (WHO) was quoted earlier as saying that asymptomatic people can’t spread COVID-19, but then they walked it back. What happened?The issue here was about the WHO reporting on strict definitions that were confusing. The WHO was able to look at detailed contact-tracing data from around the world and figure out a befuddling epidemiological problem. They were able to separate out the influence of people who are infected and never show any symptoms at all (asymptomatic) from people with very mild symptoms, and people who are pre-symptomatic. Pre-symptomatic people and those with very mild symptoms drive a lot of the epidemic because they have no (or unnoticeable) symptoms but are shedding a lot of the virus. The technical differences matter to epidemiologists but don’t really change the precautions the larger community needs to take. You still need to move and act as if you were infected in public spaces.

2) What about the serology tests? Do they work? I want to know if I had COVID-19 already.I want to know too! Hopefully we’ll have answers about which serology tests are best in the coming weeks. There’s been a lot of progress here. It looks like you need to be recovered for at least two weeks before most tests start getting into acceptable ranges of accuracy. We still do not have a really good sense about which tests are best. For the most recent information, check out this link: https://covidtestingproject.org/.

3) Why is it that if I wear a mask it protects others more than myself?When you sneeze/talk/laugh you expel droplets into the air. Some are heavy and fall to the ground. Others evaporate (in less than a second) into smaller aerosols that can stay in the air and pass through a cloth mask. When you wear a cloth mask, it captures a lot of those droplets so they don’t evaporate. It doesn’t catch everything, but it helps. If someone else is expelling droplets that become aerosols near you, then those can pass through the mask.

4) Um ... what’s going on with cases in Utah?Utah is seeing an extended spike in cases. It isn’t just because of test increases. We know that because when you look at the percent of tests that come back positive, it has doubled from 5% to 10%. I know a lot of people are giving up on social distancing and mask-wearing. Now is the wrong time to do that. I know it stinks. I hate it too. But we are going to see big increases in hospitalization/death if we keep not taking it seriously. To help with loneliness or having kids drive you crazy, consider the “bubble-up” method. Make a deal with a few friends, family members and/or your kids’ friends that you can act normal when you are together but will be cautious (social-distancing/mask wearing) with everyone else. This worked great in New Zealand. Viruses travel through networks of people. Break up the network, break up transmission. It also makes contact tracing a whole lot easier. The bubble method means having some potentially difficult conversations with people, but we can be adults about this, right? If you are invited to a large group gathering, be “that” person. Politely say something. Make arrangements to keep everyone safe.

As you have questions, make sure that you are finding the best information possible. Talk to people that have a good understanding of the data and be very careful of commentary that might be based on political leanings or is being put out by people who are not acting in good faith. Stay safe, wear a mask. Mask-wearing is key to our getting past this thing together.

See what people are talking about at The Community Table!