If you’ve been to the doctor or even a high-rise apartment recently, chances are you’ve encountered the new norm when it comes to elevators.
It’s a quiet ride. Four little dots that look like hand placements for the popular game Twister align the floors, reminding riders that social distancing is in place to ensure safety as the coronavirus pandemic continues. While things may be relatively calm with buildings still awaiting residents to return to the office, it’s becoming pretty obvious that the days of juggling coffee and awkward elevator conversation with the colleague you’ve never spoken to are likely no more – at least for now.
In come the standing spots for distancing, required mask-wearing, and limited occupancy per elevator ride. No talking, too, according to The New York Times, which reported on the future of elevators and their purpose in the workplace.
The report hinted at companies hiring “elevator consultants” to figure out how to continue the flow of thousands of workers despite limitations on ridership. In addition, the report noted how the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention plans to reveal guidelines on etiquette for elevators and escalators in the near future. But one of the big revelations from the story is the death of small talk in elevators, which the CDC plans to recommend.
The Times spoke with Richard Corsi, dean of engineering and computer science at Portland State University, who made calculations based on how the virus would stay alive in an elevator if someone took a ride for about 10 floors, coughed once and talked on a phone. Here’s the rundown.
“After exiting the elevator — an act that released some of that person’s emissions from the elevator — approximately 25 percent of the person’s discharge would remain by the time the empty elevator returned to the first floor, he estimated.
Given all the unknowns with the coronavirus — like how much is needed to cause illness and how much of the aerosol would spread to another rider’s lungs — Dr. Corsi couldn’t determine the likelihood of transmission. But he said that the excretion from an infected person not wearing a mask would make an elevator far riskier than, say, standing in much less confined space, for the same amount of time, even indoors — “100 to 1,000 times more particles per liter of air,” he estimated.”
Not good! Corsi had this to say:
“Standing as far as way as you can diagonally in elevator would be good, and do not speak,” he told The Times.
He said there should be new etiquette: “They should put big signs on the elevator: Do Not Speak.”