Friends and neighbors in Massachusetts who were Shutdown and Mask Karens (i.e., nearly all of my friends and neighbors who weren’t pilots, doctors, or medical school professors!) reported that, in their personal experience, the shutdowns and masks had beaten the common cold. A full year of school closure (Boston Public) and more than a year of mask orders from the energetic governor had shown the rhinovirus who was boss. Yes, adults were still meeting at bars, on Tinder, and in marijuana and liquor stores (“essential”), but a cold is no match for a full glass of vodka combined with healing marijuana smoke.
Let’s check in with #Science… “Kids’ Colds Didn’t Take a Break During the Pandemic” (MedPage Today, October 1, 2021):
As cases of influenza and other respiratory viruses plummeted during the COVID-19 pandemic for kids and adults alike, rhinovirus and enterovirus continued to infect children at typical rates, a multicenter study suggested.
In a surveillance analysis involving more than 35,000 children who presented to emergency departments or were hospitalized for acute respiratory illness, 29.6% tested positive for enterovirus or rhinovirus in the March 2020 to January 2021 season, similar to rates for two prior seasons (30.4% for 2019-2020 and 29.0% for 2017-2018), reported Danielle Rankin, MPH, CIC, of Vanderbilt University in Nashville.
And the combined positivity rate of influenza, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), and other respiratory viruses (39.5%) was significantly lower in 2020-2021 compared to each of the prior three seasons (P<0.001):
- 2019-2020: 75.4%
- 2018-2019: 71.3%
- 2017-2018: 69.4%
“It has been previously shown that mitigation measures, like mask wearing or social distancing, which were introduced to limit the spread of SARS-CoV-2, also limited the spread of influenza, RSV, and some other respiratory viruses,” Rankin said in a press release. “This study showed rhinovirus/enterovirus slightly decreased in March 2020, but shortly after resumed and persisted.”
Could the confidence of my friends in Maskachusetts that the common cold had been vanquished be an example of wishful thinking/confirmation bias? Or do we think this research result is another example of “Why Most Published Research Findings Are False”? I personally have a tough time believing that shutting schools and chaining children to their TVs and computers indoors for a year didn’t reduce transmission of the common cold. One can argue whether it makes sense to deny children an education in order to protect them from a virus that kills 82-year-olds, but I would have been confident in predicting that denying children an education would reduce their likelihood of catching a cold. (On the third hand, we could argue that my shutdown- and mask-advocating friends and neighbors in MA were a non-representative sample. Nearly all were able to work from home, for example, and nearly all lived in spacious suburban houses (see The social justice of coronashutdowns for the shutdown/mask views of a guy who lives in 8,000 square feet).)
Photos from the tiny strip mall at the heart of our former suburb, August 2021, reminding folks that COVID-19 is deadly, but so are leaf blowers (“toxic tornados” [sic]):