Voters socially distance while waiting in line. (Curtis Compton/AP)

Voters socially distance while waiting in line. (Curtis Compton/AP)

6-feet rule virtually ineffective at preventing COVID spread indoors: MIT study

Researchers Martin Bazant and John Bush say, in most cases, exposure to the airborne virus is not prevented by social distancing

According to a new study from researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, staying six feet away from others does little to curb the spread of COVID-19 indoors.

Released Tuesday (April 27), “A Guideline to Limit Indoor Airborne Transmission of COVID-19” suggests virus-laden respiratory droplets emitted from an infected person pose more of an exposure risk than commonplace social distancing rules mitigate.

That’s according to mathematicians Martin Bazant and John Bush.

The duo generated a formula to simulate rooms where respiratory droplets expelled from an infected person wearing a mask were “well-mixed” or evenly spread throughout a room.

Depending on variables – including the size of the space, number of people, type of activity, whether masks are worn and ventilation or filtration measures – the risk of COVID-19 exposure was reduced or heightened.

In calmer environments with few people, the study found droplets carrying the virus fell to the ground faster than in high-activity rooms where particles stayed suspended in the air, longer.

READ MORE: Feds launch ad campaign urging social distancing, hygiene during COVID-19 crisis

“To minimize the risk of infection, one should avoid spending extended periods in highly populated areas,” concluded Bazant and Bush in the study.

“One is safer in rooms with large volume and high ventilation rates. One is at greater risk in rooms where people are exerting themselves in such a way as to increase their respiration rate and pathogen output, for example, by exercising, singing, or shouting.”

Overall, mask-wearing was found to be the best way to limit both short-range and overall airborne transmission of COVID-19, followed by sufficient ventilation and filtration.

Bazant and Bush also created a website allowing users to use their formula to determine for themselves how best to avoid catching COVID-19 indoors.

On it, the researchers stated, “while public health organizations are beginning to acknowledge airborne transmission, they have yet to provide a safety guideline that incorporates all the relevant variables.”

RELATED: 2-metre eagle wingspan signage reminds folks in B.C. city to practise social distancing



sarah.grochowski@bpdigital.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism? Make a donation here.

Coronavirus

Just Posted

A young Sicamous Canada Day parade-goer is awed by a colourful float filled with beloved Disney characters during the July 1, 2020 community event. (File photo)
Editorial: Now is the time for Sicamous to shine

Shuswap community might be just what people who work from home are looking for

Greyhound Canada announced May 13 it was closing operations permanently after more than a century of operation. (Black Press file photo)
COLUMN: Goodbye to a never forgotten friend

Greyhound bus trips played a big role in columnist’s life

The BC Conservation Officer Service (COS) handed out fines to two anglers on Shuswap Lake who were both casting more than one line, in violation of provincial regulations, Saturday, May 15, 2021. (COS photo)
Conservation officers snag Shuswap anglers for unlawful fishing

Two anglers were given $150 fines for casting two lines at once, against provincial regulations

The future of the Okanagan Lake watershed land use will be subject of a new study supported by a $300,000 grant from the Vancouver Foundation. (Contributed)
Grant to help develop Okanagan Lake protection strategy

Study receives $300,000 grant from the Vancouver Foundation.

As they carry out a FireSmart assessment in Salmon Arm, firefighters Carmen Guidos and Steve St. Denis show one of the easy-to-rectify fire hazards that can exist for unsuspecting residents. (Martha Wickett-Salmon Arm Observer)
Column: Lessons on welcoming a wildfire into your home

The View From Here by Martha Wickett

Daily confirmed COVID-19 cases reported to B.C. public health, seven-day rolling average in white, to May 12, 2021. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
B.C. preparing ‘Restart 2.0’ from COVID-19 as June approaches

Daily infections fall below 500 Friday, down to 387 in hospital

A man and woman, both 33 and from Kelowna, were arrested on Postill Lake Forest Service Road in possession of two stolen vehicles Friday, May 14, 2021. (File photo)
Kelowna duo arrested with stolen vehicles after ‘brief’ bicycle getaway attempt

A man and a woman were arrested on a forest service road on numerous pending charges

On Friday, May 14 at Meadow Gardens Golf Club in Pitt Meadows, Michael Caan joined a very elite club of golfers who have shot under 60 (Instagram)
Crowds at English Bay were blasted with a large beam of light from an RCMP Air-1 helicopter on Friday, May 14. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Marc Grandmaison
Police enlist RCMP helicopter to disperse thousands crowded on Vancouver beach

On Friday night, police were witness to ‘several thousand people staying well into the evening’

Lynda Saundry, born 1961, is charged with the murder of North Okanagan resident Barry Jones in July 2020. Saundry will appear in Vernon court May 17, 2021, to fix a date for a preliminary inquiry. (Facebook public photo)
North Okanagan murder suspect to be tried by judge and jury

Lynda Saundry is charged with the first-degree murder of Barry Jones in July 2020

Vernon Search and Rescue’s Legacy vessel is returning to Okanagan Lake for boating season, the society said Friday, May 14, 2021. (VSAR photo)
Vernon Search and Rescue vessel returns to Okanagan Lake

VSAR’s Legacy is back with a fresh coat of paint and some other upgrades

People shop in Chinatown in Vancouver on Friday, February 5, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Vancouver community leaders call for action following 717% rise in anti-Asian hate crimes

‘The alarming rise of anti-Asian hate in Canada and south of the border shows Asians have not been fully accepted in North America,’ says Carol Lee

Sinikka Gay Elliott was reported missing on Salt Spring Island on Wednesday, May 12. (Courtesty Salt Spring RCMP)
Body of UBC professor found on Salt Spring Island, no foul play suspected

Sinikka Elliott taught sociology at the university

The first Black judge named to the BC Supreme Court, Selwyn Romilly, was handcuffed at 9:15 a.m. May 14 while walking along the seawall. (YouTube/Screen grab)
Police apologize after wrongly arresting B.C.’s first Black Supreme Court Justice

At 81 years old, the retired judge was handcuffed in public while out for a walk Friday morning

Most Read