Everything about the transmissive properties of COVID-19

By: Benjamin Bian

The argument is escalating over how long the coronavirus can stay in the air.

Instead of warning the world about the airborne properties of COVID-19, the WHO (World Health Organization), has decided to emphasize the risks of close contact with infected people. Although there is ample evidence backing this action, scientists are pushing to have the WHO identify a new threat. Scientists claim that the coronavirus is airborne. In a letter published in Clinical Infectious Diseases, Scientists argue that the WHO should update their risks page to help citizens.

Here’s a guide to the new risks of COVID-19:

So first of all, what is airborne transmission?

During the beginning of the pandemic, experts thought that the virus was primarily spread through bits of saliva or mucus that were expelled from human reflexes (sneezing or coughing). These bits would drop though the air over a short period of time. The WHO determined that these particles only travel a distance of six feet, and implemented the social distancing rule. However, researchers think that the coronavirus can stay in the air longer and travel farther thanks to particles known as aerosols. Aerosols can be generated by people singing; they can be generated by people talking; they can even be generated by people breathing.

Soooo, what's the evidence?

Studies in labs have shown that COVID-19 can remain in the air for at least three hours when artificially aerosolized, although it may be hard to compare this to a real life scenario. Unfortunately, evidence from real events suggests this form of transmission. In a choir practice in Washington, a sick singer infected 45 people, the majority of whom were more than six feet from the infectant. Scientists are not yet sure whether airborne transmission is frequent for COVID-19, but evidence does point to that direction.

Why is this important?

All of this helps us combat the growing spread of COVID-19, and we can install new systems to prevent growing transmission. Even subtle acts, from opening windows to avoiding overcrowding, can help us fight this deadly disease. Furthermore, based on this new information, people should begin staying further than 6 feet away from each other, and avoid places with low ventilation.

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