Upon feeling an earthquake, many Los Angelenos immediately think of local seismologist Dr. Lucy Jones almost involuntarily.
Though many people know her for her expert commentary on earthquakes, at The Dr. Lucy Jones Center for Science and Society, Jones looks at major disruption issues beyond that. Now, her research includes the COVID-19 pandemic.
Although her training is not in medicine or public health, Jones' review of COVID-19, informed by her background in disaster preparedness, has yielded some compelling insights.
Jones shared her belief in the importance of preparation for major disruptions, be it an earthquake, a volcano, or COVID-19. She also expressed concern that so many people seem to be ignoring the clear finding that face covering is perhaps the most crucial tool to arrest community spread of the illness.
"It really looks like the primary mechanism for transmission of COVID-19 is breathing in air that’s been breathed out by other people, Jones said.
She also emphasized the unfathomable magnitude of this global disruption.
"With the pandemic, we're finally having that once in a century event," she said. "It's really disruptive. And what's really sad is that public health has done the science and we know how to control this."
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Citing a study that analyzed the disease's course in different countries, Jones said that when countries impose mandatory mask-wearing, the number of cases goes down. Furthermore, even if only 80% of people cover their faces around others, the pandemic could be stopped in its tracks.
Masks have become a politicized issue, viewed by some as an infringement of personal liberty. Jones views this as short-sighted, observing that the point of public health is to protect the community.
"When cholera regularly swept through our cities, we got it," Jones said. "We knew that we needed it. But we haven't had a pandemic in so long we've forgotten that."
Since retiring from the US Geological Survey four years ago, Jones has been growing her Center for Science and Society. Recently she launched a podcast with the no nonsense title, "Getting through it."
"You want one line about how to cope with this pandemic?" Jones said in one episode of the podcast. "Don't share your air!"
Jones adds that, according to another study, COVID contraction is far more likely indoors than outside.
"Information that helps people make better decisions is always a good thing, but especially right now," Jones said. "Our lives depend on it."