Coronavirus might spread more than 6 feet through the air when there’s poor ventilation in an indoor space, researchers recently told CBS News.
John Lednicky, who studies viruses at the University of Florida, told CBS that there’s been a lot of back-and-forth about whether or not coronavirus can spread through the air, making COVID-19 an airborne disease.
So his team researched air samples in a hospital room. The team found the virus can spread through the air up to 16 feet away from an infected patients through aerosols, or tiny air droplets.
Linsey Marr, a civil and environmental engineering professor at Virginia Tech, told CBS News that “this is the smoking gun everyone has been asking for!”
“We’re talking about a virus that is present in very small droplets, tiny ones that we call aerosols that can travel much farther through the air and remain in the air for minutes to hours at a time,” Marr explained.
So that whole social distancing thing about staying 6 feet away from someone? It might actually need to be 16 feet to work right. This is especially true since aerosols can spread from talking, singing and making small noises — not just coughing or sneezing.
Angela Rasmussen, a virologist at Columbia University in New York, threw some cold water on the study in an interview with The New York Times. Finding aerosols in the air doesn’t mean someone will be infected from the virus, or have a bad infection.
“I’m just not sure that these numbers are high enough to cause an infection in somebody,” she said. “The only conclusion I can take from this paper is you can culture viable virus out of the air. But that’s not a small thing.”
Back in July, a group of experts and scientists argued in a letter that the World Health Organization needed to classify the coronavirus as an airborne virus, despite the idea that the notion of doing so sounded scary.
The letter specifically called on the WHO “to give more weight to the role of the airborne spread of COVID-19,” according to CNBC.
“It appears to contradict previous evidence that the virus is transmitted from person to person via droplets from the nose or mouth. These are expelled when a person with the infection coughs, sneezes or speaks,” according to CNBC.
The WHO budged a little bit soon after, saying that there needed to be more research into whether or not the virus can spread through the air.
“Airborne transmission of the virus can occur in health care settings where specific medical procedures, called aerosol generating procedures, generate very small droplets called aerosols. Some outbreak reports related to indoor crowded spaces have suggested the possibility of aerosol transmission, combined with droplet transmission, for example, during choir practice, in restaurants or in fitness classes,” according to the WHO.