Airflow studies reveal strategies to reduce indoor transmission of COVID-19
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fairly difficult
At the 73rd Annual Meeting of the American Physical Society's Division of Fluid Dynamics, researchers presented a range of studies investigating the aerodynamics of infectious disease. Their results suggest strategies for lowering risk based on a rigorous understanding of how infectious particles mix with air in confined spaces.
VIRTUAL MEETING (CST), November 22, 2020 -- Wear a mask. Stay six feet apart. Avoid large gatherings. As the world awaits a safe and effective vaccine, controlling the COVID-19 pandemic hinges on widespread compliance with these public health guidelines. But as colder weather forces people to spend more time indoors, blocking disease transmission will become more challenging than ever.

Research early in the pandemic focused on the role played by large, fast-falling droplets produced by coughing and sneezing. However, documented super-spreader events hinted that airborne transmission of tiny particles from everyday activities may also be a dangerous route of infection. Fifty-three of 61 singers in Washington state, for example, became infected after a 2.5-hour choir rehearsal in March. Of 67 passengers who spent two hours on a bus with a COVID-19-infected individual in Zhejiang Province, China, 24 tested positive afterward.

William Ristenpart, a chemical engineer at the University of California, Davis, found that when people speak or sing loudly, they produce dramatically larger numbers of micron-sized particles compared to when they use a normal voice. The particles produced during yelling, they found, greatly exceed the number produced during coughing. In guinea pigs, they observed influenza can spread through contaminated dust particles. If the same is true for the SARS-CoV-2, the researchers said, then objects that release contaminated dust--like tissues--may pose a risk.

Abhishek Kumar, Jean Hertzberg, and other researchers from the University of Colorado, Boulder, focused on how the virus might spread during music performance. They discussed results from experiments designed to measure aerosol emission from instrumentalists.

"Everyone was very worried about flutes early on, but it turns out that flutes don't generate that much," said Hertzberg. On the other hand, instruments like clarinets and oboes, which have wet vibrating surfaces, tend to produce…
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