THIRSTY GROUND UPDATES

April Update: Face Mask Donations & The Mysterious COVID-19 Virus

A lot has developed in only two weeks! While the days seem to all roll together during the COVID-19 lockdown, we’ve tried to keep pursuing what open doors remain for service to the community and witness for Christ.

We’ve been able to produce and donate 156 cloth face masks so far to those in our community. Every week progress is made, more people are trained, and more masks produced. It seems like cloth face masks may become a part of life for the foreseeable future, so we don’t see the need for these going away any time soon.

Below is an update on the refugee training program for producing cloth face masks, followed by some observations/resources on this mysterious virus called COVID-19 that’s changed all of our lives.

Also, in case it is something useful to you, we updated the DIY cloth face mask tutorial with an English-only video that better explains the cloth face mask sewing process. You can find it here on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aHMzKQPxRZc

Refugee Sewing Training Progress

I noted in the last update that we had just begun trying to teach some refugee women how to sew cloth face masks. They had a desire to learn to sew even before this pandemic. Now that they are stuck at home with no outside work the time to do it is now.

By God’s grace, they’ve caught on to the nuances of sewing with a machine and some of them are beginning to produce viable, donate-able cloth face masks! It took multiple training sessions, but there’s progress. So far we’ve trained four women, and we have hope to train more this coming week.

The majority of the women are Syrian refugees, but one of them is a local Christian Syrian woman we’ve known for years. It turns out she grew up with a mother who is a seamstress. Once she dusted off her sewing machine skills to learn the face mask pattern, she’s already made almost 70 viable face masks we’ve been able to donate to the community here!

We are limited by the amount of sewing machines we currently have on hand. With the global – and local – economic meltdown and supply chain disruptions, I’m not sure we can easily get more. Even if you have funds for something these days, it might just not be available in the market since so many things are no longer being imported.

Insights On The Mysterious COVID-19 Virus

Like I initially said, a lot has changed in only two weeks in some areas, including the global understanding of this mysterious COVID-19 virus!

I am adding some new resource links to the main page of our COVID response section that may be helpful information for you all. I am sure that many of you, like us, are trying to better understand this strange virus. In the words of an ER doctor quoted in one of the below linked articles, it is unlike anything we’ve seen before. I wish it was just another version of the flu, but it’s not. Here are some of the things they are finding:

Blood Clots: COVID-19 appears to be causing blood clots in patients. This is now considered one of the major ways that COVID-19 infections can become fatal. Numerous autopsies show hundreds of micro-clots in peoples lungs who died of COVID-19. Nobody knows why these clots happen, but there seems to be consensus that they DO happen from COVID-19, and that anti-clotting agents can help reduce symptoms.

New Symptoms & COVID Toes: The CDC added new confirmed signs & symptoms of COVID-19 to their website, for a total of 9 symptoms to look for. One of them is the bizarre loss of taste and smell! In addition to these new symptoms that are now “officially” recognized, many doctors are reporting odd rashes and a phenomenon called “COVID toes” in patients. This is possibly related to the clotting problems caused by COVID-19 reducing or cutting off circulation to extremities, like what happened to Broadway actor Nick Cordero who lost his leg after getting COVID-19. If you can see the embedded tweet below from an MD, it has some pictures of what the toes may look like:

Silent Hypoxia & Early Detection With Pulse Oximetry: There is also growing consensus that COVID pneumonia is very different from “normal” pneumonia, both in its presentation and mechanism. One way it is different is the “silent hypoxia” in patients. People may come walking into the ER complaining of a cough or modest breathing issues. When checked, they show oxygen levels around 70% or lower – some in the 50s even – and yet can still be conscious and functioning. That is extremely abnormal, and oxygen levels that low are often incompatible with life.

Nobody knows for certain, but this seems due to the unique way COVID-19 attacks lung tissue and the production of surfactant. People can slowly and steadily lose their respiratory function without “feeling” it like in typical pneumonia, and before long be in a critical state. However, this hypoxia does not stay “silent” if you have a pule oximeter handy. One doctor suggests that using this finger-tip device – which costs around $20 on Amazon – can give you an early indication of unrecognized COVID-19 infection.

How it works is simple. If you suspect you have COVID-19 symptoms then you check your O2 saturation level with a pulse oximeter. If you find you are below the normal range, you may be experiencing “silent hypoxia” from COVID. A normal range is typically 94% – 100% on the pulse oximeter. If you start dropping under 90% then it is entering a more serious/critical range that should be promptly seen by a doctor.

COVID-19 Has At Least Three Different Recognized Strains: There is still so much unknown about the origins of this virus. But one very interesting finding is that it has already morphed into at least three different variant strains significant enough to be considered separate strains of the virus. Other studies suggested up to 30+ different strains, but the above study acknowledged many of those changes were minor enough to keep them grouped into three major variants.

Type A is the earliest strain, found in many of the West coast COVID-19 cases in the USA and some of the first COVID cases in China. Interestingly though, the vast majority of COVID cases in China were the type B strain, not type A. The strain that has been ravaging Europe – from Italy to France to the UK – is mostly the type C strain. The significance of this is unknown. However, the different types of strains represent later mutations. Thus, type C is the “newest” major variant, and may behave differently than type A did. But again, nobody knows for certain. Hypotheses abound whether one strain binds more strongly to ACE2 receptors, thus explaining higher mortality in Europe as opposed to parts of America with predominantly type A variant. When more research comes out on this, it will be helpful.

The Role Of Vitamin D In Treating/Preventing COVID-19: There are, of course, a wide range of proposed cures and treatments for COVID-19 floating around the internet. Some, like research into Remdesivir, seem promising despite early setbacks. Others, like putting a blow dryer in your mouth to inhale super heated air to kill COVID-19, are downright foolish and harmful. But one natural remedy that keeps coming up as potentially useful is that of Vitamin D. There is still no hard evidence, but lots of speculation. No clinical trials have been done yet on it, but there is an active clinical trial underway to test its effectiveness in improving patient outcomes with COVID-19.

There is some merit to the hypothesis of Vitamin D playing a role in COVID-19 survival, even if it’s role is related to the normal function of Vitamin D in improving immune system response/health. The WSJ claimed that in the three Western countries with the highest mortality rates – Italy, Spain and France – they also had the lowest average Vitamin D levels among patients.

An axiom in statistics is that correlation DOES NOT prove causation. Remember that. But it can be worth exploring if there is a related link between the two. It will be interesting to see if the official clinical trials produce anything of value. Though the science in this area is not validated yet, there is a recent paper published by a natural health group that suggests some reasons why Vitamin D can play a role in COVID-19 prevention/treatment: Vitamin D Supplements & COVID-19

The above summary is also found on this page, with full article references, if you want to share only these summary points: A Summary Of Recent COVID-19 Developments – April 25th, 2020

There Is Much We Still Do Not Know

I am not a doctor, nor a researcher, though I do have a 15-year medical background in field medicine/pre-hospital care and health services administration. I cannot offer any insights on COVID-19 myself other than sifting through what others published, or reporting what I see on the ground myself.

Please do not take anything posted above as the “final word” or definitive treatment. Even the experts, in moments of transparency, humbly admit they really do not know as much about COVID-19 as they need to. Nobody does yet. If you are a Doctor or medical provider, and see something inaccurately portrayed here, please contact me to let me know.

In another two weeks, it is highly likely that some of the above links will now be outdated by new information and insights. And that’s probably a good thing. We are all in this together, and God alone knows the purposes behind what He is doing with this disruptive pandemic.

In the meantime, we pray, we seek to serve our neighbors affected by this virus, and press onward for Christ!

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