You just need to turn off the central air conditioning

Friday, March 27th, 2020

The cordon sanitaire that began around Wuhan and two nearby cities on Jan. 23 helped slow the virus’s transmission to other parts of China, but didn’t really stop it in Wuhan itself:

Instead, the virus kept spreading among family members in homes, in large part because hospitals were too overwhelmed to handle all the patients, according to doctors and patients there.

What really turned the tide in Wuhan was a shift after Feb. 2 to a more aggressive and systematic quarantine regime whereby suspected or mild cases—and even healthy close contacts of confirmed cases—were sent to makeshift hospitals and temporary quarantine centers.

The tactics required turning hundreds of hotels, schools and other places into quarantine centers, as well as building two new hospitals and creating 14 temporary ones in public buildings. It also underscored the importance of coronavirus testing capacity, which local authorities say was expanded from 200 tests a day in late January to 7,000 daily by mid-February.


In New York City, federal authorities plan to set up mobile hospitals, with a total capacity of 1,000 beds, at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in Manhattan. New York has also been looking into converting entire hotels into hospitals, but it is unclear how many beds will be made available.

Zhang Jinnong, head of the emergency department at Wuhan’s Xiehe Hospital, said the most important thing was to separate the infected from the healthy, and recommended hotels as quarantine centers where people could be isolated in separate rooms.

“You just need to turn off the central air conditioning,” he said.


South Korea, which has tested more people than any other country, originally tried to hospitalize all confirmed cases. But as wards became overloaded, from March 1 it divided coronavirus patients into four categories: asymptomatic, mild, severe and critical.

Only severe and critical cases were hospitalized, while mild and asymptomatic cases were placed in makeshift hospitals known as “residential treatment facilities.”

In Singapore, all suspected cases have been isolated in hospitals, while close contacts of confirmed cases have been systematically tracked and quarantined in government-run facilities or at home.


Another critical factor was the deployment to Wuhan of thousands of extra doctors and nurses from elsewhere in China. Among them was Meng Xinke, a doctor from the intensive care department of the No. 2 People’s Hospital in Shenzhen.

He arrived in Wuhan on Feb. 9 and was put to work in an exhibition center newly transformed into a makeshift hospital with 40 doctors and 1,461 beds, for confirmed mild coronavirus cases. Separating milder cases “is a great way to save resources,” he said, adding that five doctors were able to look after 400 patients during each shift.

His daily routine included checking patients’ vital signs, giving them medication, conducting tests, and identifying those developing severe symptoms. After about two weeks, he said, his team noticed that about 10%-15% of patients discharged from some makeshift hospitals were later testing positive again—a possible indication they hadn’t fully cleared the virus.

On Feb. 22, Wuhan required all discharged patients to go to quarantine sites for another two weeks instead of heading home.


  1. Ezra says:

    Turn off the AC? One of the four basic ingredients of modern civilized society. AC, flush toilets, toilet paper, McDonald Big Mac.

  2. Lucklucky says:

    If the AC has a functional UV-C system to kill the virus, it can even be better.

  3. lucklucky says:

    Careful with UV light.

  4. Harry Jones says:

    AC is vastly overrated. They always have it way too cold, so there’s a shock coming in from a hot outdoors. That’s can trigger otherwise seasonal viruses to attack.

    If they’d set it at, say, 75F… that would be reasonable. But they won’t, and you can’t make them. People are just like that.

    Try fiddling with layered clothing every time you go in or out and it’s just a pain, especially with shopping in hand. A cape would be so much easier, but it’s not easy to buy an actual cape. I’ve taken to wearing a poncho to cope. A poncho is at least in the ballpark.

  5. Graham says:

    Some of my least fave temperature experiences have been stepping from a punishing dry 48 degree C heat [118] into an air conditioned prefab set at an otherwise moderate and pleasant 22-23 [72-73]. Yikes.

    Then a few days later a similarly hot but more humid climate, and a similarly cooled prefab. Soo much worse. The sweat chills just poured out.

    I got used in my old place to there being too much heat coming out of old rads in winter and it being around 24-26 C. On bad days 27 or more. SO my limit was 25-6 and I grew to find that comfortable. Wasn’t bothered until 27-8.

    In spring when the boiler went off too early, or in September when it was turned on too late, I started to feel chilled at 21. At 19 I felt like it was Scrooge’s freezing mansion. I learned that our city by laws only required landlords to maintain something like 18 in the day time and 16 at night, which struck me as both too low and in the wrong order.

    It’s taken me nearly a year to detox to the point where my comfort zone is back down to a more normal 22-3. Still hate chillier.

    And where once I hated dampness most, now it’s dryness. This planet blows.

    All that just caused me to do the math a few times. Yeah, I could manage at a routine 75 F and a humidity of anywhere from 25 [every place I lived tends to dry the last few years; I currently need a humidifier to stay above 20 % and get to the 30s] to 40%.

    Naturally, Ottawa’s valley climate in summer tends to swampy in bad years. Last summer was mild. THe one in 2018 was around or above 30 with very high humidity without much or any break all July and August. Usually we’d get thunderstorms and multi-day breaks. That one was good for two months of the rot.

  6. Charlie says:

    Come to Florida, and live without AC and only fans all year long for a year or two. I can’t stand air conditioning now. It’s too cold. Acclimate to the humidity and heat, and stop being an effete pussy. I have a couple high volume exhaust fans on my 150 ft square rig, I close the doors and all but one or two of the windows, and position a couple high power floor fans to maximum effect. In Florida the temps drop by 10-20 degrees at night even in summer, and fans make everything copasetic no matter how hot it becomes.

    I’m a Mainer, and heat’s the same principle as cold, in reverse. Your body will acclimate to almost anything, you just need to train it. I never heated my bedroom in winter in New England – I just made sure that I had the proper layers (at least three or four) on my body and bed, that I had a snug hat on my head.. Sleeping snug in the bitter cold is simply the best thing ever, no debate nor doubt. It’s all about the science of layering in the North, making sure your water pipes and essential spaces are warm and snug, that when you go out you are properly layered..

    It’s all simply science of preparation and acclimation, weather hot or cold is the issue.. Minimize your thermal exposure, only heat or cool what is absolutely necessary, it can all be done on the absolute cheap and fly..

  7. Harry Jones says:

    I grew up in the Northeast and never learned to like winter.

    I figured out some time ago the way to avoid catching a head cold is to stay at a temperature slightly warmer than comfortable. I hit on this after reading how fevers work. Turn up the thermostat and dress extra warm – this creates the same effect as a fever would, without having to get largely taken over by a virus first.

    Another thing that makes a difference is to avoid sudden shocks of cold. That’s my objection to the excessive indoor cooling on a hot July afternoon.

    It’s part of my strategy to outlive this latest pandemic panic. It’s related to one of the viruses that cause the common cold. Not the rhinovirus. The other one.

    I starting to see people walk around with surgical masks and I feel like I’m in Asia again.

  8. Graham says:

    I don’t think I could handle Florida in summer, or dry Arizona for that matter. Either would have mild but unpleasant consequences for me.

    Still, this place has it’s unpleasant sides and we all manage, just the same.

    Move a little slower in summer, pad properly in winter. Get boots with good grip.

    Admittedly, I like my air conditioned places [work, malls, etc] in really hot humid summers. Just need them to be set at a reasonable 22-23 and not to hang in them too much.

  9. Graham says:

    What happens with the UV- self-blinding? Hell of a price to pay for avoiding respiratory disease.

  10. Harry Jones says:

    I resisted moving south for a long time because I wasn’t sure I could handle the summers. It turns out that I find it much easier to cope with hot summers than with cold winters. The key is: don’t go outdoors in the afternoon, and I’m fine.

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