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Lessons Learned for Coronavirus: Interview with Infectious Disease Expert

I learned some key things from listening to a Joe Rogan podcast — his guest was the director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy (CIDRAP), Michael Olsterholm.

Key Takeaways

— They now think the virus is predominantly spread by people who are PRE-symptomatic (it’s easy enough to avoid people who are sick once they have symptoms, right? But before symptoms show, it’s impossible to know who is carrying it and who is not). Assume everyone is carrying it.

— They think it’s spread simply by talking to someone or standing near them. Yes, the simple act of breathing in the air they have breathed out is enough to infect you. That’s why this thing is so contagious.

— They don’t think it’s being spread (so much) via hand-to-mouth transmission. Yes, it’s still a good idea to wash your hands and not touch your face, but there isn’t good evidence to suggest that this is how it is primarily being spread.

— If you already own a mask, like many of us in Northern CA do (from the wildfires we get every year), wear it when you go out! Olsterholm says even a surgical mask is “better than nothing.” An N95 mask is a very good idea — a full-face N95 mask is the gold standard (but hard to find) — especially if you’re braving a grocery store. Of course, don’t hoard masks because medical professionals need them more than we do, but you already know that.

The mask-shaming needs to stop. By all means, if you have a mask, wear it.

Ok, so that’s why we stay away from the breathing space of people. Makes sense now.

Also – do you know what’s infuriating? Even though it was an inevitability, the US was not prepared for this. No medical supplies (masks!) have been stockpiled. As Olsterholm says, you don’t start building a battleship once the war has already started. For the cost of less than one military airplane, we could have stockpiled emergency supplies and been ready for this, from a public health perspective.


Stay safe out there!! We’ll get through this.


  1. Hi, Thank you for sharing this resource and COVID-19 information. I just want to flag that, it seems, not all experts agree with the information in this article. Here is a recent video (3/22/20) from an ICU doctor in NYC with different information about the virus based on his hands-on work with COVID-19 patients: https://vimeo.com/399733860. Specifically, he said doctors believe it’s spread mainly via droplets (hand to face) and not really in the air.

    1. There is so much we don’t know, and the information is rapidly changing. We’ve put a call out on social for feedback from folks around the country. We’ll be updating these articles accordingly.

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