This arti­cle is part 6 of 7 in the series Other Bad Bugs We Have Known

Our pre­vi­ous arti­cles explored some dread­ful bugs. We saw how vac­cines worked to stop them. Hopefully, we under­stood that the Covid vac­cines are our best hope to stop the cur­rent pan­dem­ic. Hopefully, enough peo­ple have the com­mon sense to get vac­ci­nat­ed before the virus can mutate. Whoa! Did I just hear some­one say Omicron?

There are many more bad bugs that vac­cines have either stopped or brought under con­trol. But let’s take a break and see what we are deal­ing with. Or more pre­cise­ly, what we can’t see. We can’t see the coro­n­avirus in the con­ven­tion­al way because it’s too small for the eye to see. It is small­er than the wave­lengths our eyes can perceive.

A three thou­sand dol­lar, top-of-the-line lab­o­ra­to­ry micro­scope can’t see it.

It takes a scan­ning elec­tron micro­scope. They must be pret­ty good. They’re so expen­sive, their web­sites won’t even tell you how much they cost.

Let’s try to make some sense of the size of the coro­n­avirus that caus­es the dis­ease Covid-19. A recent National Geographic mag­a­zine arti­cle had a graph­ic show­ing the rel­a­tive sizes of var­i­ous virus­es. They were shown to scale mag­ni­fied 20,000 times. At this scale, the width of a human hair would be over 41 feet.

Visualization of the coronavirus causing COVID-19
Visualization of the coro­n­avirus caus­ing COVID-19

Think about that for a sec­ond. Take one of your hairs and look down at the top, not the side. It will look like a lit­tle tiny dot. In our com­par­i­son, that dot equals over 41 feet across.

I took some change and found that a nick­el cov­ered the pic­ture of the virus that caus­es Covid19.

Here is one way to look at it. Go out in your yard and draw a cir­cle 41 feet across. Toss in a nick­el. The nick­el is the size of the virus com­pared to the width of a human hair. Pretty small, wouldn’t you say?

But that’s just the two-dimen­sion­al part of the sto­ry. Since the virus is round, we have to fig­ure for that in our virus/hair com­par­i­son. A school bus is about 40 feet long. Let’s use that.

Some of us might remem­ber how to find the area of a cir­cle and maybe even the cir­cum­fer­ence. But since none of us remem­ber the for­mu­la to find the vol­ume of a sphere, I had to look it up. If the diam­e­ter of the hair is 40 feet, the vol­ume of the sphere is 33,510 cubic feet.

Now, we have to find the vol­ume of a sin­gle school bus. Length of bus (40 ft.) times width (8 ft.) times height (10 ft.) equals 3,200 cubic feet. Next, we divide the vol­ume of the sphere by the vol­ume of the school bus and we find it’s equal to 10 ½ busses.

For con­ve­nience sake, let’s park five school bus­es side by side and then stack five more bus­es on top of them. If you want, you can put the remain­ing half a bus on top. Now take your nick­el (pre­tend it’s round) and com­pare it to your stack of school busses. Really small, huh? That’s how small a coro­n­avirus is com­pared to the width of a human hair.

That’s what sci­en­tists and doc­tors are deal­ing with. It’s com­pli­cat­ed stuff. Saving lives and end­ing a pan­dem­ic is com­pli­cat­ed stuff.

What is the solu­tion offered by the anti-vaxxers? Be against the vac­cine. Talk end­less­ly of the few times things went wrong (noth­ing is per­fect in this world) and ignore the mil­lions and mil­lions of times things went right. How do they do it? By sow­ing doubt, fear, par­tial truths, and dis­in­for­ma­tion. Why do they do it? Because it makes them mon­ey when we watch their shows. And bot­tom-feed­ing politi­cians join in because they want our vote

Those peo­ple are not try­ing to stop the pan­dem­ic. 775,000 dead Americans mean noth­ing to them. 140,000 American chil­dren los­ing a par­ent, both par­ents, or their pri­ma­ry care­giv­er means noth­ing to them. It is to their advan­tage that the pan­dem­ic con­tin­ues. They want to divide us. They want to turn the pan­dem­ic into a polit­i­cal bat­tle. They want to scare us with mis­in­for­ma­tion and con­fu­sion so we will keep watch­ing their show, or worse, vote for them. The pan­dem­ic makes them mon­ey and gets them votes.

They say we have the right to go wher­ev­er we want with­out being vaccinated—even though they know this spreads the dis­ease, kills inno­cent peo­ple, and keeps the pan­dem­ic going.  How could any­one with even a lick of com­mon sense trust those people?

With rights come respon­si­bil­i­ties. People have the right to not get vac­ci­nat­ed. That’s fine. But with that right comes the respon­si­bil­i­ty to not spread the dis­ease to oth­ers. You don’t have the right to kill peo­ple, even if you don’t mean to.

Let’s con­sid­er their don’t‑wear-a-mask argu­ment: “The size of the coro­n­avirus is small­er than the pore size of any mask, includ­ing the N95. Therefore, the virus can go straight through and masks are worthless.”

The first state­ment is true. But that truth is only part of the truth and not the truth that mat­ters. The tiny virus does not trav­el on its own. It is con­tained in droplets of sali­va, that is to say, spit. When we cough or sneeze or oth­er­wise spew out spit, droplets go fly­ing through the air. Some droplets are big, heavy, con­tain lots of virus­es, and fall to the ground rather quick­ly. If you hap­pen to be in range, a good mask catch­es them eas­i­ly. Some droplets are small (called aerosols) and only con­tain a few virus­es. They float around in the air for a long time. But they, too, will stick to an N95 mask.

Surgical masks and cloth masks catch the big droplets but are not as effec­tive with the small ones. However, they do help. They are espe­cial­ly help­ful in pre­vent­ing an infect­ed per­son from spread­ing the virus.

Wearing a mask helps in the fight against the pan­dem­ic. Social dis­tanc­ing helps. Testing helps. Contact trac­ing helps. Listening to the doc­tors and sci­en­tists who actu­al­ly know some­thing about the virus also helps.

Most of all, get­ting vac­ci­nat­ed helps. Use your com­mon sense. Get vaccinated.

  • David made scaled-down, tra­di­tion­al Appalachian musi­cal instru­ments for chil­dren. Thousands of ele­men­tary stu­dents from across the state enjoyed his hands-on Appalachian music and her­itage pro­gram. He also worked with folks from six coun­ties for the cre­ation of the Appalachian Heritage Monument—a world-class venue that would rebrand Eastern Kentucky in a pos­i­tive light. (Still work­ing on it.) David lives in Valeria, Wolfe County, Kentucky.

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