Is 6 feet apart enough? COVID-19 droplets may travel up to 27 feet, MIT researcher says

A gaseous cloud carrying droplets is created when humans cough or sneeze, and it can travel up to 27 feet, Lydia Bourouiba, PhD, associate professor at MIT and researcher of the dynamics of exhalations, told USA Today.

In a Journal of the American Medical Association article, Dr. Bourouiba urged for a revision of World Health Organization and CDC recommendations for healthcare workers in contact with COVID-19 patients, which currently call for 3 or 6 feet of space, respectively.

Droplets don't just "hit a virtual wall and stop there," Dr. Bourouiba said. 

However, not everyone in the scientific community agrees with Dr. Bourouiba's theory. 

"The question is not how far the germs can travel, but how far can they travel before they're no longer a threat," Paul Pottinger, MD, infectious disease professor at Seattle-based University of Washington School of Medicine, told USA Today.  

Smaller droplets have a lower chance of infecting someone who breathes them in because they contain fewer viral particles, Dr. Pottinger said.

"The biggest threat — we think — with the coronavirus is actually the larger droplets," Dr. Pottinger told USA Today. "Usually, within about 6 feet of leaving somebody's body, those larger, more infectious droplets will drop to the ground. That's where the 6-foot rule comes from."

If the novel coronavirus could effectively spread up to 27 feet, Dr. Pottinger said many more people would be sick. 

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