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MIT Researchers Say Risk of Contracting COVID Indoors is the same at 6ft and 60ft

Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology say the risk of contracting COVID-19 indoors is the same when socially distanced at 6-feet apart and when 60-feet apart.

Professor Martin Bazant, who teaches chemical engineering and applied mathematics at MIT, told CNBC that the 6-foot rule “really has no physical basis because the air a person is breathing while wearing a mask tends to rise and comes down elsewhere in the room so you’re more exposed to the average background than you are to a person at a distance.”

CNBC reports that Bazant and MIT professor John W.M. Bush, who teaches applied mathematics, developed a method of calculating exposure risk to Covid-19 in an indoor setting.

The research article, published earlier this month, details their method which factors in a variety of issues that could affect the transmission, including the amount of time spent inside, air filtration and circulation, immunization, variant strains, mask use, and even respiratory activity such as breathing, eating, speaking or singing.

“We argue there really isn’t much of a benefit to the 6-foot rule, especially when people are wearing masks,” Bazant said in an interview with CNBC. “It really has no physical basis because the air a person is breathing while wearing a mask tends to rise and comes down elsewhere in the room so you’re more exposed to the average background than you are to a person at a distance.”

Bazant said that guidelines enforcing indoor occupancy limits are flawed and the important variable the CDC and the WHO have overlooked is the amount of time spent indoors.

“What our analysis continues to show is that many spaces that have been shut down in fact don’t need to be,” Bazant told CNBC.

He said social distancing rules that are leading to businesses being closed “are just not reasonable.

“Often times the space is large enough, the ventilation is good enough, the amount of time people spend together is such that those spaces can be safely operated even at full capacity and the scientific support for reduced capacity in those spaces is really not very good,” Bazant said. “I think if you run the numbers, even right now for many types of spaces you’d find that there is not a need for occupancy restrictions.”

Both the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization recommend maintaining a 6-foot distance from others, specifically in indoor settings.

The CDC’s website states it’s important to maintain social distance even if you or the other person doesn’t have symptoms because “COVID-19 spreads mainly among people who are in close contact (within about 6 feet) for a prolonged period.”

Highlighting added by the CDC. Courtesy of the CDC’s website.

The CDC dropped the distancing guidance to 3-feet for classroom settings in March.

The research article, “A guideline to limit indoor airborne transmission of COVID-19,” published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America at the beginning of the month can be read here.

Written by Megan Turner

Meg graduated from the University of Central Florida and writes and tweets about anything related to sports. She replies to comments she shouldn't reply to online and thinks the CFP Rankings are absolutely rigged. Follow her on Twitter at @Megnturner_ and Instagram at @Megnturner.

25 Comments

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  1. My guess is that the most effective way to eliminate transmission is to have a good HVAC system that turns the air over frequently or have some kind of laminar airflow to push all viruses down.

    I think we will see new air control systems implemented and those systems will greatly reduce many viral infections.

  2. Anyone who voted for these politicians that have pushed these small business killing lockdowns better remember that come election time and send these losers packing. They have lied and lied and lied some more and caused so much damage it’s almost hard to fathom. Tens of thousands of small businesses will never re open due to the loses they suffered because of this bullshit. This was always a power grab nothing more. To get rid of Trump and then to come after his base. The dems are a sick bunch, we need to cleanse ourselves of them. I’m not saying republicans are great because they sure as shit let us down as well but they’re better than the dems and our only option at this point.

  3. several years ago a parent at my son’s highschool in Maryland commented on his job and agency, the FDA. he is a Phd of some type. perhaps the most boring vague expressionless educated person i have ever met.

    joking with him during a football game i asked him how drugs and such things get approved. he said as straight as possible, the FDA has mastered the art of saying NO. they say NO until it overwhelmingly cannot. then it tentatively says YES.

    drug companies go along with it, because each NO means they can add to their profit later when their drug is a prescription for a decade or two.

    Fauci and the CDC apply exactly the same dynamic. exactly.

  4. 2020- Covid can can live on surfaces. Wait, that’s not true. Wait that is true.
    2021- Covid can’t live on surfaces.
    2020- We must keep a 6’ distance~ CDC/ WHO… wait, the WHO says 3 feet is acceptable. Wait 3 feet is also now acceptable for school children.
    2020- We must lockdown to slow the spread and crush the curve. (Whitmer and her top level aids exempted from this of course).
    2020- 2021- nobody had the flu.

    I could do a whole post on masks, Fauci and other great progressive politician public health accomplishments but I don’t have a whole day.

    • Modern day science is a total joke. It’s become far too politicized because the scientists and researches want their grant money, and if they “solve” something, there that goes. That’s why global warming has mutated into whatever bs they want to push now, I’m pretty sure they’re changing it to climate CRISIS cause gotta keep that money coming in from suckers and give windbag politicians some doom theory to run on!

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