By. Dr. Zulfikar Bux
Assistant Professor of Emergency Medicine, Vanderbilt Medical Center
Kaieteur News – A recent model study carried out by researchers from Stanford and Northwestern Universities, had some interesting findings that I thought was worth sharing with you today. The study used cell phone location data to track the movements of 98 million Americans in some metropolitan cities and came up with hotspot areas where infections were likelier to spread. It focused more on social sites and did not include schools, nursing homes, prisons, etc. that are known to be associated with COVID-19 outbreaks. Today, I will share with you the list of places that were considered high risk so that you can be more careful and selective when or if you have to visit them.
Persons who eat at these places will have to spend some amount of time eating and have to be without masks to eat. The fact that they are in an enclosed space with others, makes it a very suitable environment for the virus to spread.
Gyms tend to be enclosed and those that exercise breathe harder and faster. Someone with an infection will therefore expel more virus while they are exercising. This will expose others to higher inoculations of the virus which is circulating in the closed space. Also, equipment used in gyms are touched by many persons on a daily basis. The coronavirus can persist on these surfaces for hours (sometimes days) and come in contact with others.
Some hotels recirculate their air from split air conditioning units. This will obviously keep the virus particles in closed spaces longer if an infected person enters one of the closed spaces. In addition, indoor eating, swimming at pools and coming in contact with others at hotels will increase one’s risk of coming in contact with the virus.
Religious gatherings tend to bring groups of persons in close proximity to each other in mostly closed spaces over a period of time. There may be loud speaking or singing at these gatherings. The louder someone that is infected yells, the more virus they will expel and the further it will travel. This will obviously increase the risk for others around who are closer together in a closed space for a protracted period.
Crowds in small spaces with long exposure
The researchers found that it only takes a small amount of infected persons to infect a larger group in such settings. They concluded that these spaces all share similar factors; they are small, closed spaces that are crowded with people who tend to dwell there for longer periods.
It does not mean that we should avoid these places altogether. We have to live and adapt to life with this virus for at least the next year. The researchers stated that capping capacity at 20 percent of maximum occupancy can reduce the infections by more than 80 percent in such spaces. This will mean that these sites will only lose around 40 percent of the visits when compared to fully reopening with usual maximum occupancy. Risk can be decreased further if visitors minimize the time they spend at these sites and while wearing their masks.
We should therefore be more selective in where we go and how we expose ourselves. It doesn’t mean that you should avoid these spaces; all you need to do is take what you’ve learnt today and apply it smartly while behaving responsibly.
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