New Rules About Social Distancing and Staying Safe

We are constantly updating our knowledge about COVID-19 thanks to new research on the virus. One of the biggest misconceptions from the beginning of the pandemic is that standing 6 feet away from others ensures your safety. Not so, say experts, who point to evidence that the virus can remain in the air for hours and travel distances much greater than 6 feet.

University of Nebraska researchers found that the virus can be infectious in distances much farther than the 6 feet social distancing guidelines, according to AFP.

“Under certain conditions, particularly indoors and in areas with poor airflow around un-masked people infected with COVID-19, the virus can be transmitted via an airborne route via so-called aerosols,” Dr. Benjamin D. Singer, a critical care physician at Northwestern Medical Group in Chicago, told USA Today. “These particles can hang in the air and transmit over distances greater than 6 feet.”

Experts still recommend wearing surgical or cloth masks to protect against the virus.  Researchers at Duke University conducted a study and found that neck gaiters, the kind made of polyester spandex material, did a terrible job of blocking viral particles and were not recommended as suitable face coverings. Researchers also nixed any mask made of a stretchy material.

According to USA Today, dining indoors remains risky because ventilation is poor, and people are eating with their masks off. Singer says that it is unlikely that the virus can be transmitted on surfaces, but “routine sanitation of high-touch surfaces still makes common sense.”

Outdoor gatherings with family and friends are deemed safe as long family members stick together and observe physical distancing from other groups. Washing hands or using hand sanitizer is highly recommended.

Experts told USA Today that riding in elevators if they are not crowded, and shopping for groceries as long as you mask up, are permissible. What they do not recommend is using mass transit.

“Under almost no conditions would I use mass transit,” Dr. Eric Cioe-Pena, an emergency physician at Northwell Health said, adding that he regards a subway car as a “hot zone” because of poor circulation and transit time.

Gyms and bars also present health hazards. People are breathing hard in gyms that often have poor circulation. Bars serve alcohol that may cloud social distancing judgement, said the experts.

Many parents question whether they should send their children back to school. Cioe-Pena said new data shows that children over the age of 9 can be disease vectors.

The latest evidence published in the Journal of Pediatrics found that some children have high levels of the virus in their airways even if they are asymptomatic or have very mild symptoms. These levels appear to peak during the first three days of infection and can be instrumental in spreading disease through the community, especially as schools reopen, according to The Washington Post.

“Local guidelines and local infection patterns are key to answering that question,” said Singer, according to USA Today. “Regardless, masks and physical distancing, outdoors when possible, are important measures to limit viral transmission among children.”

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