If the Coronavirus Is Airborne, What Does It Mean for Us?
As the economy opens up, distancing, masks, and ventilation become more important than ever
The thought of being in an office building, a restaurant, or on public transportation has never been more frightening as evidence emerges about just how efficiently the novel coronavirus can spread through crowded indoor spaces.
A case report published last month in the academic journal Emerging Infectious Diseases detailed how one pre-symptomatic person infected nine others at a restaurant in Guangzhou, China. The 10 people were spread out across three tables and overlapped in the restaurant for roughly one hour. The researchers suspect that an air conditioning unit recirculating air within that section is to blame since no one else in the restaurant became infected.
Another study published in the same journal detailed an outbreak at a call center in South Korea where 94 people working on the same floor — and most on the same side of the building — all fell ill with the virus. The authors of the study write, “This outbreak shows alarmingly that [SARS-CoV-2] can be exceptionally contagious in crowded office settings such as a call center. The magnitude of the outbreak illustrates how a high-density work environment can become a high-risk site for the spread of COVID-19 and potentially a source of further transmission.”
“Fairly large droplets that are coming from people talking, coughing, sneezing, breathing, singing will float in the air depending on how much air movement we have.”
Finally, a preprint paper from China — which has not yet been peer reviewed — found that every outbreak involving three or more people came from indoor environments, most notably homes, public transportation, and restaurants. The scientists identified only one outbreak linked to an outdoor setting, and that case involved just two people. The study concludes, “The transmission of respiratory infections such as SARS-CoV-2 from the infected to the susceptible is an indoor phenomenon.”
These reports have added to the debate about whether the virus could be airborne and…