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6ft is too close: Expert warns coronavirus can travel 27ft

‘If it’s a confined space, then maintaining larger distances would be wise’

James Crump@thejamescrump
Wednesday 01 April 2020 09:43
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The novel coronavirus can travel up to 27 feet, according to an associate professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

Lydia Bourouiba researches exhalations, such as coughing and sneezing, at the Fluid Dynamics of Disease Transmission Laboratory based at the university.

Last week, Ms Bourouiba published an article in a Journal of the American Medical Association where she wrote that gaseous clouds from exhalations can travel “23 to 27 feet”.

Currently, it is advised that those going outside stay six feet away from each other, in order to help stop the spread of Covid-19.

Ms Bourouiba thinks that these guidelines need to be reworked in order to reflect the seriousness of the pandemic.

The associate professor told USA Today that “there’s an urgency in revising the guidelines currently being given by the WHO and the CDC on the needs for protective equipment, particularly for the frontline healthcare workers.”

Ms Bourouiba outlined that the virus is able to spread a lot further than is being reported and that scientific consensus needs to be updated in order to fully tackle the pandemic.

“Although such social distancing strategies are critical in the current time of pandemic, it may seem surprising that the current understanding of the routes of host-to-host transmission in respiratory infectious diseases are predicated on a model of disease transmission developed in the 1930s that, by modern standards, seems overly simplified,” the associate professor wrote.

She added that “given various combinations of an individual patient’s physiology and environmental conditions, such as humidity and temperature, the gas cloud and its payload of pathogen-bearing droplets of all sizes can travel 23 to 27 feet.”

Ms Bourouiba also suggested that medical equipment being used might not be effective, saying that “currently used surgical and N95 masks are not tested for these potential characteristics of respiratory emissions.”

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She admits that there is no definitive answer on what is a safe distance in regards to Covid-19 yet, but wrote that “when possible, if it’s a confined space, then maintaining larger distances would be wise.”

According to a tracking project hosted by Johns Hopkins University, upwards of 164,874 people have tested positive for coronavirus in the US. The death toll has reached at least 3,178.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recommended a two-week ban on gatherings of more than 50 people as part of the battle to contain the spread of the contagion.

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