The Sneeze and The Rule


Here I go again. I said I wouldn’t write anymore about this subject. But I can’t help it.

I know plenty of you sneeze. After all, it’s the season right now. The early season. Pollen. My car is colored in a haze of yellow. Then ragweed and other roadside flowers come in late Summer. So some of us are sneezing all the warmer months of the year. Half a dozen cats in the house help.

Most of our sneezing occurs at home, inside or out, and in government medical theory, that’s where we’re the safest. At home. That’s exactly where our government health experts want us to be. That way we are neither giving our sneeze spray to others, nor receiving any.

But we all know that sneezes are generally risk-less if we play by certain common sense rules.

But there are the sneezes that sneak up on us while out and about, at church or Walmart, and almost always, (in my case) associated with a female fragrance, such as Eau de Chernobyl. Those are the sneezes we dread, even if not attached to a deadly virus, for when we walk by a lady with such a fragrance it suddenly and explosively launches us into a violent sneeze. I’ve been in stockyards, haymows, yarn factories, even one NASCAR race, and never had a single itch to sneeze. So I know a thing or two because I’ve seen a thing or two (to steal a punch line from a popular insurance company) having well over half a century to have it imprinted in my reflexes when to fear and when not to fear a sneeze attack.

Sneezes and coughs are one of the principle reasons for the Social Distance Rule of 6 feet. The other is “touching”, which I “touched” on earlier, about the safety of dancing cheek to cheek. Unlike Legionnaire’s disease, the virus doesn’t just fly out of the air conditioning system. The theory behind the passing of the Covid-virus from one person to another is generally by these three methods; that someone has coughed or sneezed nearby and the spray has somehow entered into your respiratory system, or that you picked it up by touching some thing, a door knob, or garment, that might have been impregnated by the virus, and from there entered through your mouth or nose.

In all of these cases there is a known scientific range of time, and air temperatures, over 80 degrees F, that will allow the virus to survive for any length of time. That length of time also has a known range, depending on whether passed by wood or metals or cloth garments, even food, where some bio-terrorists like to go to practice their spitting. This varies from a few hours to a few days but almost all are intercepted by that bath, washing hands and general sanitizing once we touch a foreign object outside our homes. 2-3 hours.

I think our medical experts have explained all this, only in a way that is not easy for common sense people to understand because droning makes us fall asleep easily.

For instance, temperatures: If you know that 5 people in Congo have died from only 45 cases, or 6 of 276 cases in Nigeria, you don’t have to be a Tony Fauci, with multiple degrees, to know that that is an infinitesimally small number, but also that also the virus was not likely passed on outdoors where the daytime temps are well over 85 degrees. Just common sense.

But generally government docs don’t want you figuring this out for yourselves. They have to tell you in their own doze-inducing way.

It’s like this throughout the equatorial world, and the first takeaway would be, from Egypt to the Congo, most of those cases that arise arose indoors, especially in cities such as Cairo and Lagos where there is air-conditioning keeping temps down around 70. (Another scientific study can show that bureaucrats of every stripe do better work at 70 degrees,) For African dwellers outside, there has always been national access to many forms of anti-malarial drugs (like chloroquine) which, ironically the WHO, who supervises the administration of this drug in almost all the Third World’s tropics, now most wants the cooler-climate First World not to use. (Of interest to you imbibers, I mentioned Nigeria for it was along the Niger River in the 19th C that English traders, still wishing to sit on a screened porch in the cooler evenings, sipping an adult beverage, found that quinine water had an effect in repelling those noxious little mosquitoes that brought on malaria. Thus was born the gin and tonic, Schweppes the first company to bottle it, and still the standard bearer from Singapore to Freetown.)

Over my life I’ve had pneumonia twice and several bouts with bronchitis. I’ve had two or three rounds with flu, and with only one did I have to take to my bed for 3-4 days (sniffles, fever, sweats, and cranky), and all after I moved to Virginia in 2000 when I was 55. People ask me if I have allergies and I say only two; cats and Virginia.

Like most men, I pay attention to things that cause me discomfort now but didn’t cause me discomfort before.

Government scientists make no distinction yet we all know there is a difference between a sneeze and a cough. Were it not for the virulence of this virus some humorist would already be doing a standup routine at a comedy club, then catch Johnny Carson’s or Jay Leno’s attention and be doing a three-minute routine on late night TV. Only no one laughs on late night TV anymore, they only mock. And George Carlin is dead.

When a sudden sneeze attack comes on a person, he/she almost instinctively turns their head and sneezes in the direction where there are no people, or into their elbow or hands. We cover up. Same with a cough. I have even bent straight over and sneezed into the ground. A cough travels far less, and is almost always made into the hand or handkerchief. Most coughs aren’t convulsive.

Science has not yet told us if there is a bounce-effect from the spray that issues from our mouth and nose (Don’t deny it, you’ve all at one time or another sneezed so hard you farted, or even wet yourself) but until IHME comes up with a new theory, we can assume sneeze or cough spray doesn’t bounce. This virus is not like crabs. It does not jump.

And most of you have a sense of how far the spray from your sneezes travel. The covered cough is much less. For years we’ve seen videos showing the spray of a sneeze traveling much further than we imagine. Those videos explore the outer limits, which I can’t deny, but are not as people normally cough or sneeze. I can sneeze in front of my computer and can actually see the spray pattern on the screen at 12″-18″. But if I sneeze looking at the TV from 6′ I find there is no visible spray on the screen about 6-7 feet away, which is probably why the 6′ foot Rule is in place. But my wife still yells and runs to get her spray sanitizer and washes down the screen anyway, cursing under her breath about the barbarian fate has forced her to share life with. (We’ve been locked up here now for 8 official days, more like an eternity, and I can’t count the times my bride has reminded of how many times she has saved my life with that squeeze bottle…but there I go again.).

If I sneeze into my elbow or hand in theory a little bit of spray escapes, but even if I pull out a handkerchief and wipe off my hand, a little residue will remain there that might find its way to a door knob or another piece of clothing. People have become so conscious of these things over the past two weeks they would almost instinctively now take a good shower before being around people anymore.

That’s about all that’s needed to avoid being a “carrier”.

The ordinary distance of sneeze is about 18″-24″ but new reports are now conveniently saying it can go as far as 20 feet. If I’m standing on the beach and turn my back to a hurricane wind of 85 mph, then sneeze, yes. But it’s stretching lab tests to suggest that any sneeze aimed away from people will actually land on them. And if it should, more likely on an outer garment…where other virus rules apply, such as putting those clothes straight away into the washer, or hanging on the clothes line, after a squirting of alcohol base liquid, which is how many civilian nurses say they re-use their masks.

But that’s only describing us as “carriers”. Most of us aren’t. Our greatest concern is keeping other people from passing the Virus onto us.

About masks, I lived in Japan for three years and it was common to see civilians there wearing masks, both for their own colds and flu, but also because of the air quality conditions and general congested living conditions at the time (1970s). It was considered good manners. I’ve noticed the same in China since the 1980s, whose bad air is second to none, although, in five trips to Hong Kong since 1974, I’ve yet to see a single mask in the commercial districts.

Do sneezes also come from the lungs? Actually the photo above purports to be a sneeze, but as you can tell, all the spray issues from the mouth, so scientists say both sneezes and coughs come from the lungs. I can’t argue, but again believe that unless a blast from me actually goes directly to someone else’s skin…hands or face…the standard protocols of cleanliness apply, no different from dancing cheek to cheek with Kathy. Take a bath, fergodssake!

I blow my nose 632 times a day into my handkerchief. The same handkerchief. I have one at every stop I regularly make in the house; my computer, my car, my hip pocket and my night stand. So far, I have yet to pass the virus onto myself. In fact, it’s proof positive that I don’t have it, so all I have to do is protect myself from “out there”, as when someone touches my bare skin or I theirs (all the strip joints are closed) or my clothing, as my friend and I did at Food Lion when we greeted another by patting each other on the back after having touched the bread packages in Aisle 6.

Just mind what you touch, and what touches you.

I still like our chances on re-opening day.

The sooner the better.

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Citizen With Bark On

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