If you still think coronavirus is a joke or that masks and social distancing do not matter, consider this true story where 75% of a Washington choir's members got sick from a single practice -- despite taking precautions.
On March 10, long before the novel coronavirus dominated U.S. hospitals and headlines, leaders of the Skagit Valley Chorale decided to hold choir practice. Though some people were dying an hour south in Seattle, no one locally was known to be sick nor had anyone shown any symptoms.
Showing an abundance of caution -- considering no one knew much about the virus at the time -- leaders met members at the door of Mount Vernon Presbyterian Church with hand sanitizer. Everyone refrained from hugging each other, and choir members left empty chairs between them as they sat. No one coughed or sneezed throughout the three-hour practice. No one looked or seemed sick in any way. Members had even brought their own sheet music to minimize contact with others.
Yet three weeks later, 45 of the 60 people who had attended that day had either been diagnosed with COVID-19 or come down with serious symptoms. Three members had been hospitalized, and two had died.
The stunning event shook county health officials and confirmed a fact that the World Health Organization (WHO) had been downplaying.
Coronavirus is airborne and completely undetectable. Anyone can be infected, appear symptom-free, and yet be highly contagious. It is simply impossible to tell just by looking at someone.
(via Yahoo! News): Experts said the choir outbreak is consistent with a growing body of evidence that the virus can be transmitted through aerosols — particles smaller than 5 micrometers that can float in the air for minutes or longer.
...a study published March 17 in the New England Journal of Medicine found that when the virus was suspended in a mist under laboratory conditions it remained "viable and infectious" for three hours — though researchers have said that time period would probably be no more than a half-hour in real-world conditions.
This is far from an isolated incident, as similar outbreaks have been reported after church services, funerals, and other social gatherings around the country. It is one of the reasons that officials have enacted social distancing and recommended that people wear face coverings to avoid unknowingly spreading the virus.
Recently, data has also begun showing that people might actually be more contagious before they begin experiencing symptoms. So by the time they realize something is wrong, they have likely already infected the people closest to them.
Without adequate, accurate testing to know who has coronavirus and research to discover the effectiveness of antibodies present in those who've recovered, this pandemic will drag out longer, continue frustrating citizens, and further devastate the U.S. economy.
Until we have those permanent pieces in place, the most potent weapons we have to prevent the spread are social distancing, wearing masks, and staying home.