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COVID-19: Easier to spread indoors than outdoors; winter perfect set-up for contagion: Dr Murthy


PTI, Nov 16, 2020, 2:08 PM IST

Washington: It is easier for coronavirus to spread indoors than outdoors as people stay inside their homes during winter which is a perfect set-up for the contagion, according to Dr Vivek Murthy, the top Indian-American advisor to President-elect Joe Biden on COVID-19.

The 43-year-old former US surgeon general, who co-chairs the COVID-19 advisory board of Biden, told Fox News on Sunday that people are tired from the pandemic fatigue.

“What’s happening now in particular is that with winter, as people move indoors, this is actually the perfect set up for the virus because we know it’s easier to spread indoors than outdoors,” Murthy said.

There is one last component, which is really important, is the pandemic fatigue, he said.

“We’ve been at this pandemic now for many months and I get that. A part of that fatigue means that people are letting others into their bubble, they’re getting together for in-person dinner parties, game nights and public health departments are now tracing more and more cases back to these kinds of gatherings,” Murthy, who advises Biden on COVID-19, said.

All this put together has resulted in the recent explosion in COVID-19 cases in the US, he said.

The US is the worst affected country with over 11 million cases and 246,000 deaths.

Murthy, who was asked to resign as the US surgeon general during the early part of the Trump administration, is speculated to get a prominent position in the next Biden-Harris administration.

He said that one of the most immediate things to do is to reduce the spread.

“It actually lies in our behaviour and the choices we make. It turns out that wearing masks, keeping our distance from others, washing our hands, these seem almost too simple, but very powerful in actually reducing the spread,” Murthy said.

Biden has talked about expanding the testing capacity and also increasing contact tracing so that the infection could be contained, he said.

“He wants to increase the production of personnel protective equipment so that all our healthcare workers have masks and gloves. And he wants to really put clear guidance together, evidence-based guidance so that schools and businesses, but also state organisations, huge sports leagues and families know how to operate safely,” he said.

None of this is going to be possible if public trust is not gained, Murthy said.

“The way you do that is by communicating honestly, by leading with science and scientists in the face of this pandemic and ultimately by delivering results,” Murthy observed.

Responding to a question, he said that that national lockdown is a last resort. The country has learnt a lot more about now than it was in the spring early this year.

“If we just lock down the entire country without targeting our efforts, then we are going to exacerbate the pandemic fatigue people are feeling, you’re going to hurt jobs and the economy, you’re going to shut down schools and hurt the education of our children. So, we go to approach this with a precision of a scalpel rather than the blunt force of an axe,” he said.

Delivering the vaccine, Murthy said, is the most challenging part of this pandemic response.

“We vaccinated Americans for many years in our country, but the campaign we’re going to have to build to vaccinate enough people, to create herd immunity in America will be the most ambitious vaccination campaign I believe in our country’s history. And being that requires people to trust that the vaccine is safe and that it’s effective.

“Unfortunately, we know from the recent polls that a significant number of people are worried that the process of developing the vaccine, approving it may have been politicised. So, now, the onus is on us to be as transparent as possible and helping them understand what the scientists say, having experts review the data, making that data readily, so that even people outside the government can review it,” Murthy said.

“That’s what we’re going to have to do, and ultimately, the way we allocate this vaccine has to be determined based on needs… We can’t afford to let politics creep in to decisions we make around the vaccine, because otherwise, we’re going to put lives at stake,” he added.

According to Johns Hopkins coronavirus tracker, the coronavirus has so far infected more than 54 million people and killed over 1.3 million others globally.

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