The coronavirus that causes COVID-19 will thrive this winter for three reasons:
- Dropping temperatures
- Diving relative humidity
- Drier respiratory tracts
When the weather turns cold, air gets drier, and turning on the heat dries both the air and the tissues lining the airways, impairing how well mucous removes debris and invaders like SARS-CoV-2. Studies show significantly more infections happen and spread when the relative humidity falls from between 40% and 60%, a range typical in warmer weather, to 20%.
Limiting the number of people in a confined space, wearing a mask, and ensuring good ventilation can help reduce the risk of infection indoors. Martin Bazant, professor of chemical engineering and mathematics at MIT, urges people to think “beyond six feet” which is how he and his colleague John Bush titled their paper posted last month.
Bottom line? No one is sure whether the virus is or isn’t airborne. This study indicates that the six-foot rule may not be adequate at mitigating indoor airborne disease transmission. At the risk of repeating myself, please wear a mask, avoid large gatherings, and be prudent in who is included in your “social bubble.” The holidays will look and feel different this year and that’s okay because holidays will be back next year, and the goal is so will we!
Stay the course, stay strong, stay well, mask up and stay tuned!