A recent study by researchers of the University of California at San Diego with the University of Toronto, and the Indian Institute of Science found that respiratory droplets from a cough or a sneeze can travel — depending on weather conditions — eight to 13 feet away before evaporating. The droplets evaporate faster in hot, dry climate, but can still travel about eight feet.
“How frequently healthy people come in contact with an infected droplet cloud can be a measure of how fast the disease can spread,” the report said. This is further evidence of the importance of wearing face masks, which would trap particles in this critical range, the report added. Without masks, six feet of social distancing may not be enough to keep one person’s exhaled particles from reaching someone else, it said.
An earlier study said that even without coughing or sneezing, an infected person releases virus-bearing aerosols by his ordinary breathing, although just a foot or two.
It is good to know about research work such as these, at this time of the coronavirus causing the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. There is yet no vaccine or cure for COVID-19, so people will have to concentrate on prevention, on avoiding getting infected through three established ways – social distancing, wearing face masks, and frequent washing of hands and using alcohol and other disinfectants.
Last week, the Social Weather Stations (SWS) released the results of a survey on how Filipinos today are protecting themselves against COVID-19. Interviewed in the survey was a sample of 1,555 respondents – 306 in the National Capital Region, 451 in Balance Luzon, 388 in Visayas, and 410 in Mindanao.
The findings: 76 percent said they always use a face mask when going out of the house; 65 percent always wash their hands several times a day; and 59 percent observe physical distancing of one meter (about three feet) from another person outside the house.
The use of face masks was a high 90 percent in the National Capital Region, followed by 82 percent in Balance Luzon, and 72 percent in Mindanao. These are good percentages but they can still be improved. There are still many cases of infections in the country today and very likely, most of the victims are the ones who didn’t wear face masks.
There is yet no end in sight for the pandemic here or anywhere else in the world today. Vaccines may be ready by the end of the year and it will be months before the world’s billions of people can get vaccine protection. In the meantime, we must continue to protect ourselves as best as we can and – as the research at the University of California st San Diego has pointed out – face masks can help a lot.