A study has revealed that though non-pharmaceutical protocols of avoiding COVID-19 such as observing social distancing, handwashing and using face mask are good, they are not bulletproof when one is in close proximity to an infected person.
Indeed, a professor of applied mathematics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, John Bush, calls such a rule of thumb “dangerous” and “overly simplistic.”
The new research shows how many minutes it would take to contract COVID-19 from spending time in a room with someone infected with the virus, whether they’re close contacts or strangers standing further away.
The study says how quickly it happens depends on how well safety guidelines are being followed because when you’re inside, microscopic droplets are trapped right alongside you in a confined space, and standing six feet away from someone doesn’t stop the SARS-CoV-2 virus from floating in the air where you can potentially inhale it.
The two scientists from the MIT developed a website based on mathematical models of transmission, allowing users to see the risks posed to them by selecting very specific conditions in any given situation, such as room size, if masks—and which type—are being worn, ventilation, humidity levels, and crowd size, Fast Company, a monthly American magazine, reports.
From sitting in a living room with friends to shopping, to attending a large concert. And while the possibilities are infinite, it quickly becomes clear which factors can create the most risk.
For instance, the researchers say, a 10-person dinner in a standard room where no one is wearing masks is only safe for 18 minutes.
they note that wearing a mask and opening a window buys you nearly 10 minutes of safe time.
In the case of gathering, if you and all the guests wear masks made of coarse cloth instead of eating, for example, the amount of safe time jumps up by two minutes. And by simply opening a window and increasing ventilation, you’re safe for an additional six minutes.
“To protect against airborne transmission, it is common sense that the exposure time, room size, ventilation, and human activity must also be considered,” Martin Z. Bazant, PhD, a co-creator of the tool, wrote.
“Standing six feet apart is safe for a few seconds, but maybe not for a few hours; and social distance can be safely reduced if face masks are worn,” Bazant said.
In the case of indoor gathering, level of risk changes drastically with a few other efforts— such as swapping cloth masks for surgical grade ones, that means the amount of safe time you could spend in a room with someone with COVID-19 increases to a full two hours.
They warn that pulling your mask down briefly makes things much riskier. When accounting for people in the room pulling their face covering below their nose or wearing a mask that doesn’t fit properly, the amount of safe time again drops down to just 32 minutes.
Even in a bigger room, like a mall or big box store, there’s still a cap on how long it’s safe.
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