The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that COVID-19 can spread via aerosolized droplets that spread when someone coughs, sneezes, or even just speaks. This means simple face to face conversations can be dangerous.
Experts are now saying it is even more dangerous to stand directly in front of someone while talking to them.
Seema Lakdawala, PhD, a flu transmission researcher at the University of Pittsburgh said it’s best to turn away from people when you talk to them to avoid contracting or transmitting the coronavirus.
“If there’s any scenario where I’m face to face with someone, I move my head off-center so I’m no longer inhaling that direct plume,” she said.
This may be awkward at first because many people are used to making eye contact when having a conversation with someone. Lakdawala said it’s important to remember that this precaution not only protects you but others from contracting coronavirus.
A study, published in The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, reported that one minute of loud talking could generate at least 1,000 virus-containing droplets. What’s even more noteworthy is that these droplets can remain suspended in the air for up to 14 minutes after a conversation has ended.
“These observations confirm that there is a substantial probability that normal speaking causes airborne virus transmission in confined environments,” the authors of the study reported.
The CDC advised, if someone has been within six feet of an infected person for at least 15 minutes, starting from 48 hours before the infected person began feeling sick, they are considered to have been in close contact with the virus.
Besides simply turning away from others while having a conversation, scientists agree it’s important to wear a mask and practice social distancing while engaging with others.
Larger droplets will fall to the ground quickly, according to researchers from the National Institutes of Health and the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. And most droplets have been reported to drop off within a six-foot distance.
“If you’re six feet apart, it provides that buffer,” said Waleed Javaid, MD, director of infection prevention and control at Mount Sinai Downtown in New York City.
Additionally, wearing a mask can reduce virus transmission by up to 70%, said Purvi Parikh, MD, pediatric allergist, and immunologist at NYU Langone Health.
Dr. Werner E. Bischoff, the medical director of infection prevention and health system epidemiology at the Wake Forest School of Medicine echoed this, saying that the risk is significantly reduced by following the recommended protocols.
“Normal talking to a person while keeping the recommended social distance will be fine. Putting on a mask will be even better,” they said.