MARTHA SEZ: ‘We are talking about scientific research here, people!’

Asymptomatic coronavirus carriers are no longer considered to be the silent spreaders of COVID-19.


This new information from the World Health Organization is extremely unsettling. It flies in the face of everything we think we know to be true about the pandemic.

Here is what we have been told: “You can still spread it. Even if you don’t have any symptoms and you don’t know you have it. Even if you never have any symptoms and never know you had it. You are still contagious for an unspecified length of time.” We have been hearing this since–when, exactly? Months, at most, but it seems like years.

Mind you, this isn’t your grandmother telling you not to go in swimming for an hour after eating a peanut butter sandwich. This isn’t your best friend warning you that if you shave your legs the hair will grow back thicker. We are talking about scientific research here, people!

We have been hearing about asymptomatic transmission of the coronavirus from reliable sources, scientists and doctors, the Centers for Disease Control, the World Health Organization, for heaven’s sake!

We all learned that most people who contract COVID-19 are asymptomatic, and that they can unwittingly transmit the virus to others.

That’s what makes this virus so dangerous. That’s why it spreads so easily and why it’s so difficult to control. This was common knowledge, up until a couple of days ago.

Then, on June 6, Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove, head of WHO’s emerging diseases and zoonosis unit, announced, “From the data we have, it still seems to be rare that an asymptomatic person actually transmits onward to a secondary individual. It’s very rare.”

On June 9, after screening nearly all of its 6.5 million residents for the virus between late May and early June, the Wuhan health commission announced to the world that the 300 so-called silent carriers they identified are not contagious. Scientists were unable to grow live virus from the clinical samples they had taken from asymptomatic carriers, and contact tracing did not show any transmission of the disease to family members or others in their circle.

What about presymptomatic COVID-19 carriers, those who have caught the virus but don’t yet feel ill? People who have contracted influenza can infect others a day or so before they start to feel ill. Is this also true of COVID-19 patients? There is some evidence that people infected with COVID-19 may shed virus and thus transmit the virus before the onset of symptoms.

The latest scientific research seems to show that the dread virus is not likely to be spread by asymptomatic people at Stewart’s, at Price Chopper, in my neighborhood. You would think, wouldn’t you, that the news would make me happy. Why do I find this news from Wuhan and the WHO so irritating? I would bet that I’m not the only one.

They say that mass mask wearing helps to prevent spread of the virus. I will continue to wear a mask in public and to practice physical distancing, but who knows anymore what to believe? I predict that a lot of people will be in denial when they hear about the new research.

According to the original 1908 “Scouting for Boys” manual: “If you bathe within an hour and a half after taking a meal, that is, before your food is digested, you are very likely to get cramp. Cramp doubles you up in extreme pain so that you cannot move your arms or legs — and down you go. You may drown — and it will be your own fault.”

People still hold on to this belief, despite lack of evidence. Once people get something driven into their heads, it may be difficult to dislodge.

It is hard to think you know something and then find you don’t. We live in uncertain times.

Have a good week.