Coronavirus: Can masks and ventilation stop COVID-19 spread better than social distancing? Here’s what study suggests – Times of India


Since the outbreak of the novel coronavirus, authorities and medical professionals are urging the use of face masks and sanitizers in and around the world. Social distancing has become a norm and is being practiced at large. However, while weighing the effectiveness of one measure over the other, scientists have found that masks and proper ventilation can stop the spread of COVID-19 infections better than social distancing, especially in indoor spaces, where airborne transmission of the deadly virus is facilitated.

Risks of airborne COVID-19 transmission


COVID-19 is a respiratory illness that spreads through droplets in people’s coughs and sneezes. It is caused by the dissemination of aerosols that remain infectious when suspended in air over long distances and time.

Therefore, being with an infected person in a closed indoor space poses greater risks to your health and increases your chances of catching COVID-19 virus. While the person may not be aware of his condition, when they cough or sneeze, they’re likely to contaminate the surfaces they touch, which when touched by others can cause the spread of COVID-19.

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Airborne transmission can pose greater COVID-19 risks in indoor spaces


The viral transmission of COVID-19 through airborne microdroplets has been in discussion for a long time now. In contrast to the respiratory droplets while sneezing or coughing, airborne transmission can pose greater harm to people indoors. As the novel coronavirus has the tendency to remain in the surroundings for a long period of time, it makes enclosed spaces all the more dangerous and infectious than outdoor areas. However, experts are yet to determine the risks posed by airborne transmissions.

Are masks and good ventilation more effective in containing COVID-19 spread?


Whether you’re indoors or outdoors, precautionary measures remain the same for both. From maintaining social distance to wearing masks and disinfecting surfaces, one must follow all these guidelines for the safety of others and oneself. However, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), good ventilation and devices that maximize airflow can also prevent COVID-19 from spreading indoors.

According to study


As per a study published in the journal Physics of Fluids, researchers found that masks and a good ventilation system are more crucial and provides better results than social distancing for containing the airborne spread of COVID-19 infections indoors. The scientist prepared a computer model of a classroom with students and a teacher and then facilitated airflow and disease transmission, and calculated the risks of airborne transmission.

In the model, where the classroom was 709 square feet with 9-foot-tall ceilings, students were masked and the teacher at the front of the class also wore a mask.

“The study finds that aerosol transmission routes do not display a need for six feet social distancing when masks are mandated,” said Michael Kinzel, an assistant professor at the University of Central Florida in the US.

According to Kinzel, “The research is important as it provides guidance on how we are understanding safety in indoor environments.”

Similarly, the team of researchers evaluated a ventilated classroom and an unventilated one. The researchers found that a ventilation system with a good air filter minimized the risk of infection by 40 to 50 percent as compared to a classroom with no ventilation.

Bottomline


While the study suggests that masks and good ventilation can be more effective than social distancing in stopping the spread of COVID-19 infections, it is important that we practice social distancing too. Especially at a time when COVID-19 cases are at a surge, following all health measures are crucial to contain the spread of the virus. Simultaneously, keep wearing well-fitted masks and facilitate a good ventilation system at your homes.



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