COVID-19 Science Update, Key House Cleaning Takeaways
From the Biosciences Association of Maine Webinar: The Science of COVID-19
Last week I joined in on a webinar hosted by BioME, with an all-star panel of experts. It was reassuring to hear from these thoughtful experts about the latest on the science around SARS CoV-2 and COVID-19.
There are some key takeaways for our work in the business of cleaning homes, which I’ve highlighted below. I also thought it useful to briefly summarize what each expert shared.
Dr. Melissa Maginnis is a virologist, assistant professor, and head of the Maginnis Lab at UMaine in Orono. While there has been promising progress on the development of a vaccine, she helped put the hope of a vaccine within the year into perspective: the average timeline for vaccine development is 10-15 years, and it takes 10-15 fully developed vaccines to get a 90% chance of finding one that works across a population. You must then scale up manufacturing and distribution to vaccinate an entire population.
Another interesting challenge with vaccines: you are injecting a healthy population, so side effects are of much greater concern in a vaccine than in a treatment, and side effects are so difficult to predict across a population – that’s why testing for a vaccine is so rigorous and takes so long.
She places more hope in short-term on treatments for COVID-19 – there are over 200 in development, some are promising, and a treatment is a lighter lift than a vaccine – you are treating people who are already sick, as opposed to those who are healthy as in the case of a vaccine.
Housecleaning Takeaway: There is evidence that still-infectious virus can be shed in feces. It turns out our intestinal tract has cells that the virus can attach to. Since toilets can send water droplets onto surrounding surfaces when they are flushed, closing the lid when flushing the toilet is a good idea. It’s also a reminder of the importance of wearing our PPE when cleaning the toilet, including safety goggles to protect from water droplets entering our eyes.
The Importance of Testing
Dr. Edison Liu is President & CEO of Jackson Labs, headquartered Bar Harbor. Jackson Labs has contributed to the COVID-19 response in two key ways as I understand it. First, they have developed COVID-19 testing that will help bring 20,000 tests per day to hard-hit Connecticut, where their Genomic medicine campus is located. Second, by developing a mouse model to test vaccines for the disease, with animal testing being a critical step in vaccine development.
Dr. Liu echoed Dr. Maginnis’ cautions about expectations around vaccine development, adding that it would be necessary to test the vaccine on over 100,000 people to be assured it is safe for the larger population. He therefore advocates widespread testing, noting that our current reliance on hospitalization and death rates allow only a reactionary response, as these are lagging indicators. In other words, when your hospitalization and death rates rise, the pandemic is already raging.
What We Can All Do Now
Dr. Dora Anne Mills is Chief Health Improvement Officer at MaineHealth, and the former director of the Maine CDC. She, too, sought to temper expectations of a vaccine, adding that we need to prepare for the reality of co-existing with COVID for years to come.
As such, her updates we centered much more on what we can do now – as citizens and as employers – to contribute to the response effort. She emphasized (repeatedly) that the only tools we as a population have to fight the disease are masking, hand hygiene and social distancing. She also addressed the economic impact of the widespread closures, and how the State is responding with reopening checklists unique to each industry.
What I found most impressive was the thoughtful and pragmatic approach she and other public health officials in the state seem to be taking with the reopening checklists. Each of the Maine CDC’s COVID-19 Prevention checklists is tailored to the industry to which it applies. A lot of attention seems to go to what’s going wrong with this guidance. While the guidance is not perfect, I think it’s important to recognize the thoughtfulness, expertise and good-faith effort that has gone into helping Maine businesses reopen safely.
I felt some pride when Dr. Mills demonstrated a mobile application that MaineHealth is using to screen employees each day – it’s very similar to what we are using at Green Clean Maine to screen our housecleaning crew members!
Housecleaning Takeaway: Screening employees and customers each day is important, and we are asking the right questions. Face masks, hand hygiene and social distancing are the best weapons we have at the moment to fight this disease. At Green Clean Maine, we have instituted each of these four measures, and will continue to emphasize their importance.
After the webinar, I felt reassured that we are already doing the right things as we venture out into the community and break the chain of infection each day, by performing hygienic routine house cleaning. We will continue to monitor the latest developments, and continuously return to our goals as we navigate the crisis, ensuring we are part of the solution and not part of the problem.
Yours in Safety and Health,
Founder & CEO