Coronavirus: Social distancing gap should be greatly increased, MIT researcher says

New research questions established recommendations that individuals should stand six feet away from each other to avoid spreading coronavirus, a news report said Tuesday.

While social distancing measures encourage people to either stay home or, in cases where you need to go out in public, keeping a safe distance, research by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology suggests the proper safe distance is actually 27 feet, USA Today reported.

However, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the US National Institutes of Health infectious diseases expert, on Tuesday called the research “terribly misleading,” the New York Post reported.

“I’m sorry, but I was disturbed by that report because that’s misleading,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, a member of the White House task force, said.

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In her research,  Dr. Lydia Bourouriba, an MIT associate professor, suggested dynamics of coughs and sneezes found these “exhalations cause gaseous clouds,” that have the ability to travel up to 27 feet, the  newspaper reported.

The research, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, says the social distancing measures in place now are based on a model of disease transmission developed in the 1930s.

“Implementing public health recommendations based on these older models may limit the effectiveness of the proposed interventions.” 

— MIT associate professor Lydia Bourouiba's report in the March 26 issue of Journal of the American Medical Association

“Implementing public health recommendations based on these older models may limit the effectiveness of the proposed interventions,” Bourouiba wrote in the study published March 26.

But Fauci noted during a Tuesday White House news briefing it would take a “very, very robust, vigorous, achoo sneeze,” for droplets to even come close to traveling such a distance, the Post said.

The esteemed doctor even feigned a forceful sneeze on stage as an example of what it would take to propel the droplets that far.

“So if you go way back and go, achoo,” said Fauci as he leaned back then thrust forward, “and go like that, you might get 27 feet.”

He added: “That’s not practical. That is not practical,” the Post report said.

The World Health Organization reports respiratory infections are spread through different-sized droplets, maintaining coronavirus is no different, the newspaper reported. Droplets are transmitted when someone coughs or sneezes into the air, according to WHO.

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William F. Wells, who studied Tuberculosis transmission in the 1930s, categorized those droplets as large and small, Bourouiba research shows. While the large droplets settle fast, the small droplets – also referred to as aerosols - evaporate and “form residual particulates made of the dried material from the original droplets,” according to Bourouiba.

“Infection control strategies were then developed based on whether a respiratory infectious disease is primarily transmitted via the large or the small droplet route.” 

— MIT associate professor Lydia Bourouiba

“Infection control strategies were then developed based on whether a respiratory infectious disease is primarily transmitted via the large or the small droplet route,” Bourouiba wrote.

The WHO and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention base their recommendations on that droplet size classification system, but that might explain the rapid international spread of coronavirus, Bourouiba said.

Her research demonstrates sneezes and coughs consist of gas clouds that carry clusters of droplets. Existing in this gas cloud allows droplets to avoid evaporation longer than singular droplets, the report quoted the article saying.

“Under these conditions, the lifetime of a droplet could be considerably extended by a factor of up to 1,000, from a fraction of a second to minutes,” Bourouiba said.

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Dr. Paul Pottinger, an infectious disease professor at the University of Washington School of Medicine, believes if Bourouiba’s research is proven accurate, more people would be sick, USA Today reported.

“If you think about it, if this really traveled very efficiently by air, we wouldn’t be having this conversation. Everybody would know it’s true because everybody would be infected,” Pottinger told USA Today. “If it was a 27-foot radius that was a high risk to somebody, this would be a totally different conversation. It’s not.”

But the WHO recognizes in the context of coronavirus, “airborne transmission may be possible in specific circumstances and settings in which procedures or support treatments that generate aerosols are performed,” the newspaper reported.

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Bourouiba’s research also cites a 2020 report from China showing COVID-19 particles were found in hospital ventilation systems above rooms where patients were being treated coronavirus.

“Finding virus particles in these systems is more consistent with the turbulent gas cloud hypothesis of disease transmission than the dichotomous model because it explains how viable virus particles can travel long distances from patients,” Bourouiba wrote.

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Bourouiba believes agencies should be overly cautious when considering social distancing measures, even if the scientific community can’t agree on a specific distance the coronavirus can travel, the report said.

“Although there remains a lot of questions to be addressed about how much virus is at a given distance or not, we have no answer one way or another at this time,” Bourouiba told USA Today. “Therefore, the precautionary principle should drive the policies to state that we should have high-grade respirators used for health care workers.

By By Jack Durschlag | Fox News from original article, published 2 month ago


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