COVID-19 Spreads via Droplets
Corona virus spreads through droplets. These droplets can contaminate anyone who comes in contact with them. The droplets are released into the air when an infected person coughs, sneezes or even speaks. The virus can travel a far distance, but when we are outside the amount of virus droplets that reach you will decrease with distance. Imagine how many virus molecules disperse with wind, air flow, and distance. Sure, a few virus molecules may reach you when you are on the beach, walking in the park, sitting outdoors dining, but the minimal amount will decrease the chances for you to be infected with COVID. Also, getting exposure to the virus in small doses can improve your immune system and decrease the severity of the symptoms. The video below provides a visual of how far the virus can spread.
HOW FAR CAN COVID-19 DROPLETS TRAVEL?
Under normal laboratory conditions, these droplets project ~ 3- 6 feet, but in real life these same droplets may travel up to 26 feet according to the Journal of American Medical Association.
We need to consider how temperature, humidity and air flow impacts the distance these droplets travel. Hot, moist environments and flowing air … either from wind or our own momentum (runners, cyclist, etc) will increase the distance the droplets travel, all the way up to 26 feet, but the amount of droplets that reaches you outside will be minimal. The natural elements outdoors such as wind, air flow, gravity, etc all decrease the amount of molecules that will reach you by the time it travels 26 feet.
HOW TO PROTECT YOURSELF
- Wear a mask, preferably one that seals
- Protect your eyes from the particles = sunglasses, eye shields, safety goggles, or ski goggles are all reasonable alternatives
- Wash your hands frequently
- Take off your shoes and clothes before entering your home
Is COVID-19 Airborne?
Airborne precautions are recommended because the virus remains viable for 3-4 hours in the air. Technically, the virus is spread through droplets in the air, but since the virus lives in the air for a prolonged period of time, be safe and institute airborne precautions. Please reference to the page on “how to protect yourself” for specific detailed instructions on airborne vs droplet precautions, how to implement these precautions when receiving packages, etc. at home.
- Wear a N95 mask for airborne and surgical mask for droplet precautions
- Eye shield = sunglasses or glasses; ski goggles or safety goggles for healthcare professionals
- Wash your clothes after being in contact with others
- Wash your hands frequently for 20 secs
- Use hand sanitizer when you do not have access to a sink to wash your hands
IS COVID-19 Contagious Through Heating & Cooling HVAC Systems
Yes, it is possible for corona virus to spread through HVAC systems that do not have filters. The risk is minimal, but the risk exist.
Hospital HVAC systems utilize special filters. These filters ensure the air is not shared throughout common spaces before removing contaminants. Apartment buildings, hotels, etc do NOT utilize these special filtration systems. For this reason, common areas and shared spaces at apartment buildings were closed in many states. China shut off the central heat/air to eliminate the risk for contamination via HVAC systems. Many countries outside the US closed hotels due to the risk for contamination via HVAC as well.
Bahnfleth recently published an article about the potential for airborne transmission due to the small size of the virus particles. He says, “And if viruses that are viable are in those droplets that you’re producing, some of them will be small enough that they will stay airborne for a long time. So, it’s not impossible that infectious particles in the air could stay aloft long enough to be collected, say at the return grille of an HVAC system, go through a duct, and infect someone in a different space.”
WHAT CAN YOU DO IF YOU LIVE IN AN APARTMENT WITH AN HVAC SYSTEM?
- Utilize alternative heating/cooling methods such as fans or AC window units
- Open your windows, in addition to fans (fresh air helps combat the virus)
- AVOID common areas such as fitness rooms, clubhouse, etc
Can COVID-19 Spread through Plumbing
Again, yes! The risk is minimal but the risk is there. The risk increases with high rise buildings. This occurs if defective plumbing is present. Fecal transmission via plumbing was a major source of SARS transmission in 2003. Corona virus is transmitted via fecal matter, so it is plausible that the virus can spread through defective pipes. 50% of people infected with corona have the virus in their stool and the virus remains contagious in the stool much longer than the respiratory system.
IS YOUR DRINKING WATER SAFE
Yes! Our drinking water is safe. City water is treated with chemicals at a treatment plant that would destroy the virus. However, untreated sewage should be considered contaminated. Employees at treatment plants should wear proper PPE for protection. Treated sewage is no longer contaminated.
HOW CAN YOU PROTECT YOURSELF
- Wear gloves when cleaning your toilet
- Clean your toilet before use with Clorox or another effective agent
- Wash your hands before using the toilet, after cleaning
- Wash your hands again after using the bathroom (ie wash your hands before and after using the toilet)
- Close the toilet seat BEFORE flushing