COVID-19 Transmission Risk Factors

Stan Adams
Nov 5, 2020 12:36:27 PM

Different environments and conditions carry different risks for spreading COVID-19. What shapes COVID-19 transmission risk?

A recent article by El País, takes a look at the risk of contagion in different indoor spaces and strategies to help lower that risk, especially by lowering the risk of aerosol transmission. The article takes a look at three different scenarios—a room, a bar, and a classroom–and factors that influence overall contagion risk.

Before we dive into those scenarios, let’s talk about the three different methods of infection:

  1. Small respiratory droplets that we expel when we breath, talk, sing, cough, and sneeze. This is thought to be the primary method of transmission.
  2. Aerosolized particles are expelled like respiratory droplets, but they are smaller and can accumulate overtime especially in a poorly ventilated indoor environment. Aerosols were not originally believed to be a main form of transmission, though we now understand that aerosol transmission does contribute to the spread of COVID-19, especially indoors.
  3. Fomites, or objects carrying infectious particles. This method is believed to be the least common.

We now know that indoor settings carry a greater risk of transmission than outdoor settings and have identified three factors the impact the risk of transmission indoors:

  1. Length of exposure or the time spent with someone who is infected with COVID-19. The longer exposure, the greater the risk of transmission.
  2. Poor ventilation also plays a role in transmission. Aerosolized particles can be compared to smoke and how smoke accumulates in a sealed room.
  3. Wearing masks also influences transmission risk by lowering the risk of transmission, though not eliminating risk.

When engaging in indoor activities, it is important to consider these three factors. With proper ventilation, mask wearing, and short interactions, we can greatly reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission.

Until next time, stay vigilant, and let's do everything we can to stop the spread.

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Woman wearing a mask and holding a clipboard and a cell phone (1)

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