Scientists offer ways to reduce indoor transmission of COVID-19

Experts say people should continue social distancing and avoid visiting friends.

For months, people have been doing their best to adhere to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s guidelines about how to slow the spread of COVID-19. They include frequent hand washing, maintaining at least a six-foot distance from others and wearing a mask in public places where social distancing is difficult.

It’s been explained why outdoor activities are a safer option if small gatherings are held compared to indoor gatherings, but the cooler months mean that many gatherings will be held indoors, leading to more concerns about the spread of the disease caused by the coronavirus.

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At the 73rd Annual Meeting of the American Physical Society’s Division of Fluid Dynamics, researchers virtually presented several studies that looked into infectious diseases’ aerodynamics.

Among some of the research disclosed in a Nov. 22 APS Physics news release was that of a graduate student in mechanical engineering Abhishek Kumar and fellow researchers at the University of Colorado, Boulder. They examined the way the virus could spread during musical performances. The discussed results from experiments meant to measure instrumentalists’ aerosol emissions.

“Everyone was very worried about flutes early on, but it turns out that flutes don’t generate that much,” said Jean R. Hertzberg, an associate professor in thermo fluid sciences at University of Colorado, Boulder.

Clarinets and oboes, on the other hand, typically create an abundance of aerosols, but they are controllable.

“When you put a surgical mask over the bell of a clarinet or trumpet, it reduces the amount of aerosols back down to levels in a normal tone of voice,” Hertzberg said.

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Similar risk reduction-efforts were evaluated by engineers at the University of Minnesota.

Led by mechanical engineering Ph.D. student Ruichen He, the team conducted an analysis of various instruments along with the flow field and aerosols they created. Rarely did the aerosols produced travel more than a foot away, despite the level created varying by instruments and musicians.

Their discovery led them to develop seating for live orchestras that took the pandemic into account. The seating model detailed where filters should be placed and audience members ought to be seated to lessen the risk.

Another study reviewed the risk of COVID-19 infection by traveling to and from the office via passenger cars.

Brown University engineering professor Kenny Breuer and his team conducted mathematical simulations of the way air moves through passenger car cabins to identify procedures that may lessen the risk of infection. They found that strategically opening some windows and closing others in a passenger car may decrease the risk of transmission if air enters and exits a room at a distance from passengers.

For more insight into the studies scientists have conducted to develop strategies of decreasing the risk of COVID-19 transmission, read the news release here.

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