GAINESVILLE, Fla. - Researchers at the University of Florida have conducted a study that shows coronavirus can travel up to 16 feet, and that it is still capable of infection at that distance. The team said their findings "strengthen the notion that airborne transmission of viable SARS-CoV-2 is likely and plays a critical role in the spread of COVID-19.”
"The number-one thing is we shouldn't be complacent with regards to distance," said UF researcher Dr. John Lednicky.
They placed aerosol collectors in a hospital room at several distances from a sneezing and coughing patient, collecting droplets in devices produced by Aerosol Devices Inc., a company based in Colorado.
"Other people have detected the virus particles in the air," said Lednicky. "They just couldn't show they were viable."
The study was published in the pre-print server medRxiv on Aug. 4, meaning it has not yet been peer-reviewed.
The findings have gotten worldwide attention, especially because the commonly-accepted distancing guideline used by local governments is six feet.
But it's still unclear how likely you are to get COVID-19 from 16 feet away.
"The amount of virus they detected is really low," said Dr. Michael Teng, a virologist at USF. "What we really have not come to grips with is how much virus do you need to transmit to get infection?"
Dr. Teng, who did not participate in the study, said the findings further confirm the advice of public health experts.
"This definitely tells you people can spread the virus. And they can spread it probably farther than we think it can," he said. "This means masks, physical distancing, is absolutely essential."
If you feel sick:
The Florida Department of Health has opened a COVID-19 Call Center at 1-866-779-6121. Agents will answer questions around the clock. Questions may also be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org. Email responses will be sent during call center hours.
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