Professors Martin Bazant and John Bush of the prestigious Massachusetts Institute of Technology say the “six-foot rule,” which encourages people to socially distance themselves in public, lacks a solid foundation in science.
They stated that the risk of exposure to the coronavirus indoors is the same whether people are six feet or 60 feet away, and that risk is small in well-ventilated spaces.
Bazant and Bush developed a model to calculate indoor exposure risk based on time inside, air filtration and circulation, vaccinations, breathability, variants and use of the mask.
The team says the six-foot rule “has no physical foundation,” because even when people wear masks, the air tends to rise, travel, and come down somewhere else in the room, according to CNBC.
According to researchers, these results suggest that if a room is adequately ventilated, the system “can operate safely even at full capacity and the scientific support for reduced capacity in these rooms is really not very good”.
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The risk of exposure to the coronavirus indoors is the same as social distancing at six feet and 60 feet, according to new research from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Pictured are people enjoying the Grand Market while indoor dining opens in Los Angeles in March
The coronavirus is an infectious pneumonia that first appeared in Wuhan China in 2019, but has since spread worldwide – and has persisted for more than a year.
When it started to take off, health officials were quick to announce protocols to keep the virus at bay, and that included social distancing.
Because the coronavirus spreads through respiratory droplets exhaled by an infected person, the CDC recommends that people stay at least three feet apart – but MIT says distance doesn’t matter.
MIT found in the study that there are probably ways in which transmission between people takes place: large drops from mouth to another person’s mouth, eyes; infected droplets on a surface; and inhaling droplets from either an infected person or ambient air.
The team says that the six-foot rule “has no physical basis” because when people wear masks because the air tends to rise, travel, and come down somewhere else in the room. The graphic shows how droplets released during breathing activities move
“We later refer to these three modes of transmission as” Large-Drop “,” Contact “and” Airborne “transmission, while we find that the distinction between large-drop and airborne transmission is a bit nebulous given the continuum of sizes of emitted droplets, ”says the study published in PNAS.
The team says the six-foot rule greatly reduces the risk of large drops, but drops released by respiratory events can travel greater than just six feet.
“We claim the 6-foot rule really isn’t of much use, especially when people are wearing masks,” Bazant told CNBC in an interview.
“It really has no physical foundation as the air a person breathes while wearing a mask tends to rise and fall elsewhere in the room, leaving you more exposed to the average background than a person in the distance.”
These microscopic drops of liquid are released during breathing, speaking, coughing, and other breathing activities. Because they are warm from the person’s body heat, the droplets can rise and move around an entire room.
Researchers developed a model to calculate indoor exposure risk based on time inside, air filtration and circulation, vaccinations, breathability, variants and use of the mask.
And they found that it’s not social distancing that keeps people safe, it’s the time they spend in an enclosed space.
“Our analysis continues to show that many rooms that have actually been closed do not need to be closed,” he continued.
“Often times the room is big enough, the ventilation is good enough, the time people spend together is such that these rooms can be operated safely even at full capacity, and the scientific support for reduced capacity in these rooms is real not very good . ‘
“I think even now, if you put the numbers in, you will find that many types of rooms have no occupancy restrictions.”
CDC Guidelines for Americans Fully Vaccinated Against COVID-19
On March 8, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) published guidelines on what fully vaccinated Americans can and cannot do.
According to official data, a person is considered fully vaccinated two weeks after receiving the last required dose of vaccine, either two doses of the Pfizer BioNTech or Moderna shot, or one dose of the Johnson & Johnson shot.
WHAT YOU CAN DO IF YOU FULLY VACCINATE
- Visit other fully vaccinated people indoors without wearing masks or practicing social distancing
- Visit unvaccinated individuals from households with low risk of severe COVID-19 indoors without wearing masks or practicing social distancing
- Do not quarantine or get tested if exposed to an asymptomatic COVID-19 patient
WHAT YOU CANNOT DO AFTER RECEIVING YOUR FINAL DOSE
- Wear masks and practice social distancing in public
- Wear masks and practice social distancing when visiting unvaccinated people who are at high risk of severe COVID-19
- When meeting with vaccinated people from multiple households, practice safety measures like masking and social distancing
- Avoid medium and large face-to-face meetings
- Avoid traveling
- Get tested if you experience symptoms of COVID-19