The global spread of COVID-19 has exposed major vulnerabilities in the global system.
The range of policies enacted by governments have either flattened their curves (South Korea) or resulted in immense pressure on fragile healthcare systems (Italy, Spain). Taken together, these developments have stalled the world economy with repercussions to be felt for years to come.
At VYZR Technologies, we believe that COVID-19’s efficient spread is partly due to the lack of effective Personal Protective Equipment (PPE ) available to healthcare providers and the general public. Where masks and face shields are generally useful in healthcare settings, their effectiveness against airborne pathogens like COVID-19 appears to be limited.
Is COVID-19 airborne?
One would expect a straightforward answer to this question. But with critical shortages in PPE, requiring the public to wear face masks could deplete the dwindling supply available to healthcare professionals. Some governments have resorted to discouraging their publics from securing their PPE resulting in mixed messaging and confusion.
We’ve also seen an intense debate about the effectiveness of face masks in protecting against COVID-19. What’s starting to become clear is that they may only provide limited protection from airborne pathogens. They may instead be more useful in preventing infected individuals from transmitting the virus to others. Fueling both sides of the debate are competing economically and politically considerations that disregard the bottom line: protecting people from an airborne virus.
Beyond a complete quarantine of almost half of the world population, there doesn’t appear to be an effective way to slow down the spread of COVID-19 until a vaccine is developed and administered widely. The economic shock to individuals, from job losses to restriction on movement, will impose unforeseen hardships on billions.
The unheeded warnings of epidemiologists and academics were on point: our world is grossly unprepared for a major pandemic.
Life After Quarantine
Beyond the “grim-ness” of the subject, there are some practical considerations and questions that need to be explored. For example, how long can economies handle lockdowns? How much financial support can governments provide to keep people indoors? What happens when, inevitably, quarantine ends? Some governments have expressed concerns about a “second wave” of cases after quarantine, how will ordinary people protect themselves?
Until a vaccine is developed and administered, we’ll need to adapt to a “new normal”. How this new normal look depends on our ability to understand the nature of the threat and create innovative solutions to address it. BioVYZR 1.0 is such an innovation. Designed to create a protective barrier around the wearer, it both physically shields airborne particles from reaching their face (eyes, nose, and mouth) and filters them out of the air they breathe in and out.
Sharing small spaces is part of our human experience. Any scenario where quarantine ends will see everyone getting out again, sharing elevators, busses, meeting rooms, restrooms, train cars, cabin space, etc. Unless a new class of effective (and accessible) personal protective gear becomes widely adopted, COVID-19 will continue to spread.
Flattening the Curve, Buying Time
Nothing has been more gut-wrenching than seeing front-line healthcare professionals forced to find creative ways to protect themselves from what they know to be an airborne pathogen. With shortages in PPE and limited resources, those on the front-line are putting their lives at risk and they need better protection to do their job.
Flattening the curve is a necessary mechanism to reduce the strain on the healthcare system and allow it to build up additional capacity. But the capacity for what? How much more PPE will we need? How many more ventilators will we require? With countries blocking each other’s access to vital supplies, who will be safe, and who will remain vulnerable? And if this is what we are experiencing in developed economies, what lies ahead for developing countries?
At VYZR Technologies, we’re thinking hard about solving the problems our healthcare professionals currently face. We’re on a mission to create a new kind of PPE that will provide more comprehensive protection against airborne pathogens. We believe we can make it affordable and accessible to all. We also believe in reducing the reliance on consumables (like face masks) by using long-lasting filters that don’t need to be discarded so frequently.
Our first generation of consumer and medical BioVYZRs provides a compelling way to achieve all of this.
When will this be over?
In a thought-provoking analysis published in the Atlantic, Ed Yong helps us grasp some ways things could play out. Ultimately, with so many variables at play, nobody knows how this will end.
From the analysis and research we’ve done internally, we believe we’re still in the early phase of a global pandemic and, unfortunately, the worst may be yet to come. Governments that have implemented social distancing measures will either be desperately reluctant or desperately eager to lift them. Their decisions will be dictated by economic and political considerations. In every way, it’s going to be the toughest call they’ll ever have to make.
But these lockdowns are not sustainable. At some point, we will all need to venture out again. We’ll need to adapt to a new normal by making better decisions about how to protect ourselves and our families. We’ll need to adopt new hygiene practices, experiment with different social behaviors and use more effective protective gear.
Until a vaccine is approved, we need to adapt to a new normal, whatever that normal may be.