The Pandemic’s One Big Plus

Covid-19 spawned a revolution in understanding how some common viruses spread and how we can stop them

Robert Roy Britt
6 min readAug 10, 2022

Image: CDC

Even as rising monkeypox cases cause a global and national health emergency, and the long-forgotten poliovirus threatens to re-emerge, one of the deadliest pandemics in human history rages on. Amid this viral trifecta and the neverending carnage of lives lost and families shattered by Covid-19, there’s one positive note:

The pandemic spawned a revolution in understanding how some viruses spread, from the coronavirus to influenza and even the common cold.

The revelation has informed a refined set of effective tactics that individuals, businesses, and other organizations can use to improve everyday health and battle current and future infectious diseases— should we choose to do so.

Viruses take flight

Remember the early advice on Covid-19 prevention? Avoid handshakes, wash your hands thoroughly and often, sneeze into your elbow, sanitize your vegetables, and don’t touch the mail for a couple days? Some great advice in there — especially the hand-washing and elbow-sneezing — but all else wound up being off the mark for this particular pathogen.

Decades-old knowledge that some viruses can become airborne was ignored by health officials as the pandemic spread with shocking speed around the world in the first three months of 2020. By late May, it had become obvious that the primary means of coronavirus transmission was through the air, particularly indoors, even across entire rooms and through ventilation systems to people who were nowhere near an infected person.

The realization, after much hemming and hawing by key health officials, finally led to consensus and a once-in-a-lifetime advance in the knowledge of virus transmission more broadly:

By August of 2021, airborne spread was determined to be the most common means of transmission for the influenza virus, the common cold virus, and measles, too.

Robert Roy Britt

Founder/editor of Wise & Well on Medium & the Writer's Guide at & author of Make Sleep Your Superpower