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A Conversation between :Abraham Verghese, MD; Christina Pagel, PhD
Verghese: What can we do differently from what they did in the era of Camus’ The Plague, for example? What can we do to impact the science ignorance that hurts us?
Pagel: I wish I knew. What worries me is that we’re not trying to learn from COVID and apply it to a new pandemic.
Another thing that struck me is that you can understand the panic and the mistakes that happened in the first wave in March 2020. But by the time the Alpha wave hit in late 2020, early 2021, it felt like not that much had been learned. We didn’t mitigate it, particularly factors around transmission and about it being airborne.
By the summer of 2020, it was reasonably clear that it could spread through the air. It was clear that masks helped. It was clear that ventilation helped. It was clear that outside conditions were much safer than inside. But little effort was made to improve indoor air quality.
The thing about cleaner indoor air is that it works on any variant and any airborne disease; it helps against pollution; it helps against all kinds of things. And it doesn’t take away anyone’s freedoms.
To this day, I do not understand that, because good air quality comes with so many more public health benefits, beyond COVID. Clean indoor air is in the public good, along the same lines as clean water. I can’t understand why we’ve never prioritized it.