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 Montgomery Place values lessons from scientists during this time of COVID-19

Dear friends and family,

Did you know that facial tissues, such as Kleenex and Puffs, did not originate for blowing your nose? They were created in the 1920s to wipe off face cream and makeup. But soon consumers started using them as a solution for nasal decongestion. Kimberly-Clark pivoted its advertising to promote this new purpose. Until then, reusable, washable handkerchiefs were commonly used. Every man had one in his pocket, every mother had one in her purse, and every grandmother seemed to have one up her sleeve!

I was reading several articles today on the biological aspects of COVID-19 infection transmission. I learned about a German bacteriologist named Carl Flügge, who in 1889 proved that microbes can be transmitted ballistically through large droplets that emit at a high velocity from the mouth and nose. His method for proving the existence of these “Flügge droplets” (as they came to be known) was to painstakingly count the microbe colonies growing on culture plates from expelled secretions of infected lab subjects. In other words, sneezes and coughs, singing and speaking loudly produce droplets that can carry infectious diseases such as COVID-19.

I also learned about other research that has demonstrated how micro-droplets can remain aerosolized for longer periods of time. So when people cough or sneeze, they create droplets in all shapes and sizes. And when those droplets’ motion is not stopped by a facial tissue or other method, they can travel much further than the six feet suggested for social distancing.

So our mothers were right! Cover your mouth when you cough. Use a tissue when you sneeze. And remember to dispose of that used tissue because it now carries the Flügge droplets that could carry infectious diseases. And always wash your hands.

These articles suggest that a significant concentration of microbes are necessary to infect. Normal conversation does not emit huge concentrations of microbes, so it takes significantly longer for another person to ingest enough microbes. This is why health agencies recommend avoiding high concentrations of people for long periods of time in confined spaces.

Contact studies show some of the most common areas for infection of COVID-19 are religious gatherings for weddings, funerals and birthdays where there is close, prolonged contact with loud speaking, singing and often tears. Another area of concern is workplaces with poorly ventilated environments where employees are near each other. Nearly all outbreak contact tracings occur indoors. Understanding the biology of infection environments is critical as we begin to re-open our lives. Let’s learn from the research. Limit our contact points. Go outside!

It was a relatively quiet Monday at Montgomery Place. On Tuesday, we will watch the Blue Angels as they fly over Chicago to honor first responders combatting COVID-19. Their flight plan indicates they will fly three different times in the Hyde Park area. When they are in our neighborhood, we hope to capture their flight on video to share with the residents!

Don’t hesitate to reach out if I can answer any questions or be of further assistance. Call my mobile phone number, 773-617-1317, at any time.

Learning together, promotes a shared vision for our future.

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