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

Regional District of Nanaimo directors discussed asking the provincial government for increased funding, awareness and enforcement against human trafficking. (File photo)
Regional District of Nanaimo asking province to better address human trafficking issue

Directors agree to write to the premier and solicitor-general after hearing from advocate

Kwalikum Secondary students are happy with the first edition of the ‘Kwalikum Observer’. (Submitted photo)
KSS students produce first issue of ‘Kwalikum Observer’ newspaper

Editor says the paper offers a good outlet for students

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 vial of AstraZeneca vaccine is seen at a mass COVID-19 vaccination clinic in Calgary, Alta., Thursday, April 22, 2021. Dr. Ben Chan remembers hearing the preliminary reports back in March of blood clots appearing in a handful of European recipients of the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Science on COVID, VITT constantly changing: A look at how doctors keep up

While VITT can represent challenges as a novel disorder, blood clots themselves are not new

Poached trees that were taken recently on Vancouver Island in the Mount Prevost area near Cowichan, B.C. are shown on Sunday, May 10, 2021. Big trees, small trees, dead trees, softwoods and hardwoods have all become valuable targets of tree poachers in British Columbia as timber prices hit record levels. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jen Osborne.
Tree poaching from public forests increasing in B.C. as lumber hits record prices

Prices for B.C. softwood lumber reached $1,600 for 1,000 board feet compared with about $300 a year ago

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’

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 warm weather means time for a camping trip, or at least an excursion into nature. How much do you know about camps and camping-related facts? (John Arendt - Summerland Review)
QUIZ: Are you ready to go camping?

How many camp and camping-related questions can you answer?

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

Queen Elizabeth II and Clive Holland, deputy commonwealth president of the Royal Life Saving Society, top left, virtually present Dr. Steve Beerman, top right, with the King Edward VII Cup for his drowning-prevention work. Tanner Gorille and Sarah Downs were honoured with Russell Medals for their life-saving resuscitation. (Buckingham Palace photo)
Queen presents Vancouver Island doctor with award for global drowning prevention

Dr. Steve Beerman receives Royal Life Saving Society’s King Edward VII Cup at virtual ceremony

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)

Most Read