Guest Post: Understanding COVID a Little Better.

Understanding COVID a Little Better. breaking the covid-19 chain

This post is maybe a little bit unexpected but I think it will be REALLY informative. If you follow me on Instagram you know that two of my closest friends launched an amazing COVID-19 disinfecting service, Fog City Girls. (If you listen to the pod, Alex is the third member of “the sorority house” aka having two of my best friends live in my building, and we’ve had her on as a guest before). At my birthday dinner she was rattling off all of this really interesting information… I thought it was beneficial and asked her to write a guest post. If you are in Brooklyn or Manhattan I highly encourage you to check out their new business.

Besides being an amazing, female-founded business run by two of the best people I know, I love that it’s something good to have come out of all of this. Alex and Deirdre were both hit pretty hard this year. Alex was planning events which is hard to do during a pandemic, and Deirdre had to close her Charleston boutique. I’m so proud of them for creating this! Without further ado, I will say SPREAD THE WORD… and let Alex take it away from here!

Understanding COVID a Little Better.

I never expected to write a guest blog post about COVID-19.  I’m not a scientist. I don’t work for the CDC, nor am I an infectious disease expert.  I’m the closet science nerd who’s worked in fashion and events for the past 20 years.  So why am I writing this?  Because I’ve learned a tremendous amount about coronavirus and COVID-19 in the past few weeks, thanks to my disinfection business Fog City Girls. And because Grace asked me to, and I’ll do anything she says!

Let’s rewind: At the start of 2020 I was living my best life. 

My career consisted of planning lavish fashion events and awards shows.  In early February, I packed 500 of my closest friends into a small room during New York Fashion Week so we could air kiss and sip cocktails, crammed in like sardines.  I cringe writing that now, just 7 months later.    

March rolled around and the world changed.  

Admittedly, at first I was the person that was calling the COVID-19 coverage a click-bait media overreaction.  “Fear mongers” was my catch-phrase.  “It is the flu.  Yes, of course the 400-person award show on March 29th that I’m planning will happen.  This will pass in 2 weeks.”

I apologize. 

Cut to me now, launching a COVID-19 disinfection business, Fog City Girls, with my friend Deirdre.  I never thought disinfection would show up on my resume.  But as I’ve seen this pandemic ravage businesses large and small – hi, I work in events – and take its toll on NYC (my heart and soul), I couldn’t sit back and do nothing.  

alex dickerson and deirdre zahl covid city girls disinfection service

Through an Elizabeth Gilbert Big Magic moment, this business came to us serendipitously.  Deirdre used this incredible organic dry fogging service in Charleston in her retail store.  I saw it on her Instagram stories, and got chills.  I slid into her DMs, asked a couple of questions, and before we knew it, we were licensing machinery and disinfection solution to clean the Big Apple.   

If you want to know more, check us out on Insta or our website fogcitygirls.com for lots of fun fog facts. 

In short, our organic dry disinfection technology is a cutting-edge process that cleans a space of pathogens (including COVID) and keeps surfaces clean for up to 7 days, with no wet or sticky residue left behind.  We wear a cool backpack, shoot a fogging gun, and basically feel like Ghostbusters with a dash of Charlie’s Angels.

I found myself last Friday getting certified by the American Red Cross in Bloodborne Pathogens Training with Infexion Shield COVID-19 Mitigation Training.  And that’s where this post comes in, as I was regaling Grace with fun facts about the virus while out at her socially-distanced al fresco birthday dinner.  I’m now the person that interrupts every conversation with “actually did you know that COVID…insert fun fact here.”  

The most important thing to understand for COVID-19, or any disease or germ/bacteria/gross stuff is the Chain of Infection.  This is the series of events that has to happen to enable germs to cause infections in a person.  Each part is a link in the chain, and if we break a link, we can stop the infection from spreading.

Covid-19 Chain of Infection

The six chain links are:

  1. Infectious Agent – in this case, coronavirus
  2. Reservoir – where the virus lives, it can be a person or an environment
  3. Portal of Exit – how the virus leaves the reservoir.  So if coronavirus is sitting on a door handle, and you touch the door and pick up the virus, your hand = portal of exit
  4. Mode of Transmission – how the germ spreads.  For coronavirus this is touching surfaces or through the air 
  5. Portal of Entry – how the germs invade the host; through wounds or cuts, being swallowed, or as commonly with coronavirus, breathing it in
  6. Susceptible Host – someone vulnerable to the infection, and as we have seen, coronavirus isn’t picky

covid-19 chain of infection

image source

Fog City Girls specializes in breaking link #4 – Mode of Transmission.  But everyone can play a part in each step, which is what will ultimately end the rampant spread of COVID-19.  Ready to have your mind blown with how to be an A+ chain breaker?  Wash your hands and wear a mask.  To quote the great Miranda Priestly, Florals, for Spring… groundbreaking.

deirdre zahl and alex dickerson covid-19 fog city girls

Here are 5 things from training that stuck with me and I now irritate everyone with them.

FACT 1 – CORONAVIRUS vs COVID:

Coronavirus (or its full name, novel coronavirus 19), is the name of the virus.  It comes from the Latin root “corona” which means crown, because of its spikes.  The name of the disease is COVID-19, coming from COrona VIrus Disease.  If you want to talk about germs on the table, those are coronavirus.  If you want to talk about the illness, it is COVID.

FACT 2 – SOME NUMBERS:

It can live on inanimate surfaces for up to 9 days in the right conditions.  It can be suspended in the air for up to 3 hours.  And it loves humidity and moisture, and thrives in temperatures between 55-65 degrees Fahrenheit.  Hello fall.  Heat kills it, but only above around 156 degrees Fahrenheit…so the hopes of it going away in the summer, let’s just say you’d have some other major poolside problems by the time we reached those temps.

FACT 3 – MASKS:

Masks are the best way for us to prevent the spread.  Repeat – masks are the best way for us (the common person) to prevent the spread.  JUST WEAR ONE.  I hate wearing them too.  You think masks are bad?  You should see my face when I have to put on a full-face respirator for disinfection.  But the thing is, coronavirus doesn’t have legs and it can’t travel on its own – it hitches a ride with moisture particles.  And masks are fantastic at blocking those from getting into your mouth or nose.  Pop quiz – which link in the chain is that?  (hint: #5).  

FACT 4 – GLOVES: 

Plastic gloves are only effective if you take them off whenever you change tasks.  If you wear them to the grocery store, like I used to do, you have to take them off whenever you go to a new “task.”  If you are shopping and touching the handle of the cart, products on the shelves, etc, all good, but don’t you dare pick up your cell phone with that same glove on. Because you’re just bringing the coronavirus from whatever you were touching to this new thing. 

You’d have to remove set 1 of gloves, throw them out, touch nothing while putting on set 2 of gloves, to use your phone.  Then once you’re done with your phone, remove set 2 of gloves, toss them, and put on set 3 to continue shopping.  Rinse and repeat. Also tedious and wasteful.  I suggest using the time at a store to not multi-task.  Just do what you’re meant to do there, sanitize your hands after, then check Instagram.  Speaking of sanitizing…

FACT 5 – HAND WASHING vs HAND SANITIZING:

Handwashing for 20 seconds really is the all-time best way to rid your hands of the virus, more so than hand sanitizer.  This isn’t to say the sanitizer doesn’t work, you just have to use more than you think – you need to put enough of the gel on that your entire hand up to the wrist is wet with it as you rub it for 20 seconds.  That’s a lot, trust me, I tried it.  

alex dickerson of fog city girlsdeirdre zahl fog city girls

At the end of the day, we’ve all probably heard these in a million different ways.  Rules and guidelines change, there’s lots of different media slants out there, so ultimately, use common sense.  To close out this long-winded post, my biggest plea actually comes from a more human side.  I encourage everyone to follow a practice of:

More Science, Less Shaming

Now more than ever we are humans in this together. We’re all learning, let’s try being kind and supportive – the internet makes some people feel brazen in saying mean things or judging a situation they have no context on (this extends past COVID).  Please consider that there are people on the other side of the computer screen, the mask, the full-face respirator, the plastic shield at the cash register.  If someone is doing something you don’t feel is safe, calmly remove yourself from the situation (break that chain!), or if you need to say something, approach them in an encouraging and educational way to help them learn to follow better practices.  

Thank you SO MUCH to Alex for sharing this information with us – I think it is amazingly helpful!!! (That tip about hand sanitizer blew my mind.) If you or someone you know is in Brooklyn or Manhattan and have a business (boutiques! spas! restaurants! etc.) please check out Fog City Girls. I am so proud of my friends and think this is such an incredible business.

(photography by Hannah Turner-Harts)

Leave a Comment

Comments

  1. Mollye says 10.2.20

    This was great information and I learned a bunch. Thank you for summarizing congrats Alex on your new business!

  2. Kristen says 10.2.20

    I am sorry to see the advertisement for a service that is not really going to stop the spread of Covid. The major risk of Covid transmission is through particles/ droplets from infected people. Of course, wearing a mask is critical, but social distance (even with masks) and being outside are what will prevent transmission. Washing hands is important for disease transmission in general (hello norovirus) and hand sanitizer will do in a pinch, but it is really inhalation that transmits this disease.

    • grace at the stripe says 10.2.20

      Hi Kristen,
      This isn’t an advertisement. Of course I wanted to promote one of my best friend’s businesses but moreso wanted to pass along all the things she’s learned. I asked her to do this! Sorry it didn’t resonate for you.

    • Chrissy says 10.2.20

      Kristen: Thank you for pointing this out. The fact that businesses are touting their enhanced sanitization routines, may actually lull people into a false sense of safety going out in the community. The danger then is that people may become lax at social distancing and mask wearing. These latter two practices — along with hand washing and personal hygiene— have been proven to be MUCH more effective in stopping the COVID-19 transmission chain.

    • kplondon says 10.2.20

      I agree with Kristen’s comment. The predominant mode of transmission of COVID-19 is via respiratory droplets during close unprotected contact. The business idea is cute but this is misleading.

      • Noel says 10.2.20

        Kristen is dead on. So disappointed to see even more COVID misinformation, especially coming from a business not run by scientists. Especially when there were no specifics about how Fog City Girls have actually designed a product that will remove coronavirus from infected spaces. It seems like they believe a large percent of transmitted cases occurs through surface to surface contact, which has been disproven many times by actual infectious disease experts. Above all else we should be listening to the experts and not people trying to make a buck off the pandemic. Again truly disappointing to see this page dedicated to a service that is not based in any science we have learned since the start of the pandemic. Grace your readers could benefit significantly from a guest blog post from an actual infectious disease or emergency medicine expert. Please consider for the future!

      • Tierney says 10.2.20

        I think this article is really well done. This small business aims to fill a need that other commercial businesses require- the ability to demonstrate a pro-active approach to cleaning highly-trafficked areas. It’s not a perfect solution, but one that may work well in combination with masks, hand-washing, and social-distancing- all of which she advocates. Now, if she was trying to tell everyone they needed it in their home, I would feel differently, but she’s not.

        • grace at the stripe says 10.2.20

          Thanks Tierney, I feel like a lot of people missed the point of the article. Appreciate it!

    • ABM says 10.2.20

      I completely agree. Grace, this is really disappointing.

    • E P says 10.2.20

      Agree as well – very disappointing.

  3. Sarah says 10.2.20

    An interesting idea, but doesn’t the CDC say that the main and most important way coronavirus spreads is person-to-person respiratory droplets? Surface transmission is thought to be possible, but less likely. Most contact tracing efforts find that people are infected from each other, not from like, touching their mail. (Remember when we all thought we had to wipe down our groceries?) I’ve seen epidemiologists on twitter call it “hygiene theater.”

    • Tierney says 10.2.20

      While it may be “hygiene theater” that is less effective than other measures, business in NYC have a pretty long list of obligations to fulfill on a Safety Checklist that is required to reopen. One of them is routine cleaning of high-contact surfaces. I agree that aerosols are the main mode of transmission, but that’s not the element this business is addressing in what appears essentially to be a B2B company to fulfill a legal requirement. (https://www.governor.ny.gov/sites/governor.ny.gov/files/atoms/files/NYS_BusinessReopeningSafetyPlanTemplate.pdf)

      • Sarah says 10.2.20

        I’m glad these business owners have found a legally mandated niche in the market to fill. But my main issue is that the post is presented as information we can all use (“Understanding COVID A Little Better”, Grace’s stories telling us to “learn more about the virus and the chain of infection”), when it’s actually telling us about a service that really only commercial business in New York could use to fulfill a legal requirement – even though the information is presented as though it will be very effective in preventing transmission of coronavirus, which is not true.

        • grace at the stripe says 10.2.20

          Hi Sarah,

          Thank you for your feedback here. I titled and positioned the post the way that I did as it IS giving us helpful information. Maybe you know more about COVID-19 than I did before reading this but the tips on hand sanitizer vs washing hands, rubber gloves, and importance of wearing a mask are really helpful! When Alex was telling me at dinner about rubber gloves my mind was blown and I told her she needed to write a blog post for me. I never imagined it would snowball into so many people being angry with me or accusing me of spreading misinformation.

          I of course wanted to plug my friend’s business and was upfront about that but the body of the post is (at least I thought it was!) very useful and informative. And because my audience is primarily New York based, I thought it would be helpful as a lot of people who read this blog are business owners and/or know someone who owns a business and could spread the word.

          I’m truly sorry that you felt misled, that was never my intention.

          • Sarah says 10.2.20

            Hi Grace, thanks for your response! I suppose helpful information is subjective. At this point, six plus months into the pandemic, I did not find much new information here – but I can see from the comments that other readers definitely did find useful information, so I admit I’m wrong there.

            I’m glad your friends have found a need in the market they can fill. I just don’t want anyone to walk away from this post thinking that they need to go back to wiping down all of their groceries, or letting their mail sit for three days before they pick it up, or anything like that.

  4. Mackenzie says 10.2.20

    This is amazing! Thanks so much for sharing. Incredibly interesting read. Proud that I knew some of the information and but also so happy to learn some new things!!

  5. Tierney says 10.2.20

    I think this is a great article. As a practicing MD in CA who wears a lot of PPE and still feels at-risk despite a lot of mitigation efforts, I feel really discouraged by the COVID-shaming in some of the comments below. The tips in this article are really good. As for the business plug, it is a small, female-led business that I would like to build up, not tear down. She does not profess to offer the cure to COVID. Did you see bleach or UV light mentioned anywhere? (that was a joke). The fact is our science and policy still do not align in the US and business have to comply with re-opening requirements that may not be best-practice, but it’s what we’ve got.

    • Lauren says 10.2.20

      Tierney,

      No one is trying to tear down a small, female-led business. I understand why you keep commenting that businesses need to comply with requirements but lets be real here. This company isn’t installing air purifiers or things like that. They are a cleaning company. Whatever cleaning company that a business is currently using to keep their restaurant, office, or space clean and sanitized suffices. Regarding COVID shaming, what do you think their “organic” product is doing? Let me guess, the bottle of Lysol I have doesn’t suffice in cleaning my home because it’s not organic?

      Grace, thanks for sharing tips that some people may have not already known. I wish your friends success with their new business! Kudos to them for starting a business during such hard times.

  6. Lyndee Fluder says 10.2.20

    Thank you so much for using your platform to share this information! There is so much information out there, and it’s nice to see it all bundled up in an easy-to-read blog post. Definitely some good learnings and reminders!

  7. Maureen says 10.2.20

    Thank you for sharing this information! I found it helpful. And sorry people are being jerks in the comments. Personally no where in this article did I feel that it was a promotion for a business but just someone with more knowledge than me sharing what they have learned.

  8. Lindsay says 10.2.20

    I found this to be an interesting post and want to say kudos to Alexa and Dierdre for finding a way to pivot during the pandemic. The service they are offering has clearly been tested and proven. I think they are both savvy and would never have licensed this product if there was no scientific evidence behind it. Also, yes, we know that the coronavirus is spread mainly through respiratory droplets, which is why the writer emphasizes that the best thing we can do is wear a mask and wash our hands. I’m sorry for all the hate you are receiving on this post.

    • Meg says 10.2.20

      I think part of the concern here is that their website does not site any studies or provide specific data and research to demonstrate how this products kills the coronavirus/ keeps surfaces disinfected ( at least not that I could find when I looked). Maybe that information does exist? If so I would love to read a study about this product.
      For readers who work in healthcare/ have a science background it is natural to question the effectiveness of the product. As we are trained to think through an evidence-based framework. We are used to having concrete data/ research that demonstrates the effectiveness of something.
      We all come from different backgrounds and have different knowledge bases. For me the information on infection prevention and hand washing v sanitizing was not anything new. But it was for some readers so it’s great people learned useful information from the post.
      Everything is rapidly changing and industries are having to pivot. We are also continuing to learn more each day about about how to treat and prevent the spread of Covid.
      I found the comments to be an interesting dialogue to see people’s differing opinions and perspectives here.

  9. Fiona says 10.2.20

    Thanks Grace and Alex! I think we can all use the reminder now and again that wearing a mask, practicing social distancing, and washing our hands are the best practices in preventing the spread of Covid-19. I’m an immunology Phd student and I’m still amazed when I see people in my lab trying to work closer than advised when as immunologists we should certainly know better. Social distancing and masks are annoying and I think we can become lax over time, hence why the reminder is SO important.

    I’m also surprised by the rude comments because this is all useful information and not misleading at all. Again, I have friends who are traveling and don’t understand the timeline from when you are infected to the earliest you could positively test positive (spoiler, it’s not the day you get off a plane). Anytime I walk outside, go into a grocery store or coffee shop, I see people with masks under their noses (spoiler, that’s not helping). So, I think a lot of people don’t actually know as much as they think they do. So again, thank you for posting content like this!

  10. Hayley says 10.3.20

    This article didn’t give me any new information BUT I thought it was really clearly laid out and well-presented. Congratulations to your friends on pivoting in such a difficult situation and starting something new!

    In terms of the accusations of hygiene theatre, it is true that surface transmission is rare but it’s not unheard of. We have extremely good knowledge of where coronavirus has been transmitted in New Zealand, and how, thanks to low numbers of cases and strong contact tracing procedures. In recent months, that has included someone catching it from a lift button, from a rubbish bin, and on the bus – so surface, surface, air (this is only looking at cases where the source of transmission isn’t obvious, e.g. not cases where someone was at an event or in the household of an infected person). When tracing reveals that an infected person has visited a business, they shut it down for deep cleaning, and that seems to me to exactly the use case for Fog City Girls.

    Probs not something most of us need, but it doesn’t mean it’s not needed at all, clearly! Again, congratulations to your friends, Grace.