Skip Navigation
March 1, 2021

CSU researchers find transmission risk of airborne viruses can be quantified

A CSU team found that distancing indoors, even 6 feet apart, isn’t enough to limit potentially harmful exposure to airborne viruses, because confinement indoors allows particle volumes to build up in the air. Such insights aren’t revelatory, in that most people avoid confinement in indoor spaces and generally feel safer outdoors. What their paper shows, though, is that the effect of confinement indoors and subsequent particle transport can be quantified, and it can be compared to other risks that people find acceptable.

Co-authors Jeff Pierce in atmospheric science and Jay Ham in soil and crop sciences helped the team understand atmospheric turbulence in ways that could be compared in indoor and outdoor environments.

Pierce said he sought to constrain how the virus-containing particles disperse as a function of distance from the emitting person. When the pandemic hit last year, the public had many questions about whether it was safe to run or bike on trails, Pierce said. The researchers found that longer-duration interactions outdoors at greater than 6-foot distances appeared safer than similar-duration indoor interactions, even if people were further apart indoors, due to particles filling the room rather than being carried away by wind.

“We started fairly early on in the pandemic, and we were all filled with questions about: ‘Which situations are safer than others?’ Our pooled expertise allowed us to find answers to this question, and I learned a lot about air filtration and air exchange in my home and in my CSU classroom,” Pierce said.

Read the full Source story, “Indoors, outdoors, 6 feet apart? Transmission risk of airborne viruses can be quantified.”