Daily US Times: The most complicated issue in America right now is when, where, and how to reopen the cities and towns that have been sheltered in place. Everyone wants to go back to their life what they used to have few months ago, but balancing this against the need to assure both social safety and individual safety remains a substantial challenge. Meanwhile, a new study in South Korea became eye-opening.
Fortunately, a new study from South Korea has just been published in CDC medical journal, Emerging Infectious Diseases. The study published in “early release” form (it is final and peer-reviewed, just early).
“Coronavirus Disease Outbreak in Call Center, South Korea”, the title of the study, describes how South Korea dealt with an outbreak in a high-rise building in the busiest part of capital Seoul with decisive and early intervention that included extensive testing, testing and quarantine of infected people and their contacts and closing the entire building.
Experts from Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Seoul Metropolitan Government, and other local institutions conducted the research.
Though a one-building solution, the authors’ approach to identification and control of Covid-19 can serve as a blueprint for local and national policymakers wrestling with how best to proceed.
South Korea first recognized the outbreak on March 8, 2020, two weeks after the country found itself in the throes of a substantial national epidemic that arose from exposures at the Shincheonji Church in the city of Daegu, about 150 miles south of Seoul.
About half of the country’s current toll of 10,738 confirmed cases are related to the Church outbreak.
South Korean health officials had a mature process for containment already in place because it has previously handled the situation like this in SARS and MERS outbreak. When the first call center case was identified, a response team immediately undertook review of the location of the infections which was a 19-story mixed commercial-residential building.
The entire building was closed on March 9, one day after the first cases were reported.
Everyone from the building, 1,143 people, including workers, residents, and few visitors were being tested immediately with rapid results available to those affected and the team working to control the situation.
The testing showed that 97 people, 8.5 percent of those were in the building at that time, were infected. Most of the cases were women in their 30s and almost all (94 of the 97) worked on the 11th floor of the building, in the call center.
Curiously, unlike many outbreaks reported before and since, virtually all of those infected — 92% of cases — had active Covid-19 symptoms at the time of diagnosis.
Investigators then made a detailed map of who was not and who was infected. They found out that the overwhelming majority of cases had worked on one side of the 11th floor in extremely close proximity.
43% of all workers on the 11th floor developed infection with an even higher proportion among those in the heavily affected wing.
Then, South Korean Authorities tested the family members and housemates of that 97 people, who were tested positive for the virus. Very surprisingly, no cases were diagnosed in the 15 home contacts of cases with “pre-symptoms” (nothing at the time of test but development soon thereafter) or no symptoms at any time.
This also goes against the current thinking on transmission, which is that it occurs even before people show symptoms.
Investigators pointed out that the cases were in a “high-density work environment” and that spread was largely limited to one section of one floor.
During the early time of the pandemic, South Korea was struggling to contain the virus. But as the days go, the country found ground and successfully controlled the virus.