A new study published Friday by the Emerging Infectious Diseases, a journal of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, has found that the coronavirus COVID-19 can travel up to 13 feet (four meters) in the air.
The study was conducted by Chinese researchers who tested air samples and surfaces in coronavirus wards at the Huoshenshan Hospital in Wuhan, China, where the virus was first detected in December last year. A total of 24 patients were in the wards and intensive care unit, which were studied from Feb. 9 to March 2.
The virus was found to be most heavily concentrated on the floors of the wards. Droplets containing the virus from the infected patients appeared to have floated to the floor. The virus was also found on the soles of the shoes of the medical staff.
The virus was found as far as 13 feet from the patients but these were of small quantities and, the researchers believe, not necessarily infectious. High levels of the virus were found on frequently touched surfaces in the wards such as door knobs, bed railings, and the mouse used in computers in the wards.
When the World Health Organization (WHO) called for “social distancing” to help stop the spread of the COVID-19, it suggested a distance of two meters. People lining up for groceries in a few open supermarkets or for food assistance from local governments are thus told to keep about two meters from the next in line.
The two-meter distance has surely helped, but it must not be seen as sure protection, for the new research findings show the virus travels much farther than two meters. A face mask will help reduce the risk.
Recent reports from emergency rooms in COVID-19 hotspots in Europe and the United States also say that there are more men than women, as well as more obese people among those suffering severe symptoms of coronavirus. Britain’s Intensive Care National Audit and Research Center said 73 percent of those in intensive care units were men and 73.4 percent were overweight. The experts, however, were unsure why.
There is indeed so much that is not known about this virus. We were among a few nations that imposed early lockdowns or quarantines that helped to limit its spread here. It continues to spread in so many other countries that are only now enforcing lockdowns and social distancing among their people.
The end is not in sight, but the findings of researchers such as those in China and in Europe will help ordinary people protect themselves, while scientists keep up their search for an effective cure and an effective vaccine for COVID-19.