File this under things you wish were a joke but aren't. President-elect Biden's coronavirus task force member, Dr. Michael Osterholm — the one who recently said a four-to-six week lockdown may be necessary — is envisioning a world where no one spends time indoors away from their home if it's with people who aren't in their "pod."
In other words, they want you to Stop Swapping Air.
Osterholm, the director of the Center of Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, coined the phrase on an episode of his coronavirus podcast and it has now been turned into a campaign.
This week we launched the #StopSwappingAir campaign, a simple statement that can help guide your actions this holiday season. Remember that SARS-CoV-2 can linger in the air and may infect those breathing it in. Please help us share the message! https://t.co/KrVsDV0PNb pic.twitter.com/K83PAMG7aM— Michael Osterholm (@mtosterholm) December 11, 2020
"Not swapping air means not being in an enclosed or indoor space with someone outside of your household or 'pod' regardless of whether masks are worn. It is communicating and socializing virtually or outdoors at a distance," the campaign states, adding that this has to be done "until most of the population is vaccinated."
The 8-week campaign will feature billboards in the Minneapolis–St. Paul metro area with the phrase, "Stop Swapping Air," to reinforce the message that not swapping air is the most effective step you can take right now to protect yourself, your family, friends, and colleagues. If successful, Clear Channel may expand the campaign to other national markets.
SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, can be spread from person to person through the air. When people breathe, talk, yell, laugh, or sing, they create aerosols, which are tiny particles that can float in the air for minutes to hours, like the floating dust particles that you can see in sun streaming through a window.
Sharing indoor air with someone who is infected with the virus raises the risk of breathing in the virus and becoming infected. Special forms of breathing protection, such as N95 respirators, can protect you from breathing in aerosols. But cloth face coverings are not designed to filter out such small particles, and they also may enter through the gaps around the cloth. (University of Minnesota)
While complete isolation would probably be ideal in their minds, the campaign admits that "for mental well-being, it may be an acceptable risk to form a 'monogamous' social pod with a small number of people."
Examples the campaign gave for social activities include visiting "with neighbors from afar outdoors rather than inviting them into your home," "caroling outdoors, sit across a fire pit from a friend, and hold out for next year." This, mind you, is the advice being given in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area...in the middle of winter.
The campaign was widely mocked on Twitter.
Oh dear God. This is not a parody https://t.co/Qfi2pHXJuB— Alex Berenson (@AlexBerenson) December 23, 2020
what the hell is going on with our scientists in this country? https://t.co/cyKKnm2UE7— Brent A. Williams, MD (@BrentAWilliams2) December 23, 2020
Congratulations on doing almost as much to discredit modern epidemiology as Fauci.— Covidian Interregnum (@atgraham) December 12, 2020
The only way to ”stop swapping air” is to stop breathing.— CatrionaMDW (@CatrionaMDW) December 11, 2020
In an op-ed Osterholm co-authored this summer, he criticized the springtime lockdown for not being strict enough.
"The problem with the March-to-May lockdown was that it was not uniformly stringent across the country. For example, Minnesota deemed 78 percent of its workers essential," he and Minneapolis Federal Reserve President Neel Kashkari wrote in The New York Times. "To be effective, the lockdown has to be as comprehensive and strict as possible."
Last month, he said the U.S. is "about to enter COVID hell" and supported the idea of more lockdowns.
"We could pay for a package right now to cover all of the wages, lost wages for individual workers, for losses to small companies, to medium-sized companies or city, state, county governments. We could do all of that," he said. "If we did that, then we could lock down for four to six weeks."