Last week at TechCrunch Disrupt 2020 I had the opportunity to meet with Dr. Eric Feigl-Ding, an epidemiologist and health economist who is a Senior Fellow of the Federation of American Scientists. Dr. Feigl-Ding has been a frequent and vocal critic of some of the most serious missteps by regulators, public health organizations, and the current White House administration, and we specifically discussed the issue of aerosol spillage and its notable lack of existing guidance in the EU-US
At the time, neither of us knew that the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) would be posting updated guidelines on their website this past weekend that included descriptions of aerosol transmission and an admission that this is likely a primary vector for the transmission of the virus leads to COVID-1
“The fact that we didn’t emphasize aerosol transmission as much until recently is extremely frustrating,” he said during our interview last Wednesday. “Other countries that are technically much better at the technical aspects of aerosols have been ahead of the curve – like Japan, they assume this virus is aerosol and in the air. And aerosol means that the droplets are those microdroplets that can float in the air and are not pulled down by gravity […] Now we know that the aerosols can actually be the main drivers. And that means that if someone coughs, sings, or even breathes, it may be in the air, the microdroplets from anywhere can stay in the air, for up to 16 hours for stagnant air, but usually with ventilation, between 20 minutes and four hours . And that air, if you walk into a room after someone has been there, you can still get infected and that is what makes eating indoors and bars and restaurants so frustrating. “
Dr. Feigl-Ding points to a number of recent contact tracing studies that provide strong evidence that these indoor activities and the possibility of aerosol transmission lead to large numbers of infections. Such studies were featured in a CDC reopening report that was buried by the Trump administration, according to a May AP report.
“The latest report shows that indoor restaurants are the top contributing factors to transmission once you do contact tracing,” he said, noting that this naturally leads to the major problems with school reopening, including the fact that many have “very poor ventilation”. “At the same time, they cannot open their windows or doors due to current weapon security protocols. Even before the recent withdrawal of the CDC policy, Dr. Feigl-Ding clearly frustrated at how the organization seems to succumb to the politicization of what is clearly a problem of a large and growing body of scientific evidence and facts.
“The CDC has long been the most prestigious public health agency in the world, but now it’s politically silenced,” he said. “For example, it used to be the church attendance policy – the CDC advised against church meetings, but then it was overridden. And it was clearly overridden because we actually saw it change in live time. […] With regard to schools, assemblies, it is clear [that] Given the knowledge about ventilation, it is not enough to keep children in a capsule. “