The novel coronavirus that has forced "shelter in place" orders throughout much of the U.S. might spread as far as 13 feet in the air, twice the distance people are currently advised to maintain from each other to avoid infection, according to an early release of a study by Chinese researchers.
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The study published Friday in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Emerging Infectious Diseases journal builds upon warnings that the virus may be aerosolized, or spread in the air through respiratory droplets.
Some experts have suggested it can be transmitted through talking or breathing to another person in close-enough proximity, according to medical news site Webscape.
"The maximum transmission distance of SARS-CoV-2 aerosol might be four meters," or about 13 feet, according to the study, which was conducted at a hospital in Wuhan, China. SARS-CoV-2 is the name of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19, the respiratory disease that has infected more than 1.7 million people and brought the developed world's economy to a near standstill.
The CDC did not immediately respond when asked whether the study will impact the 6-foot standard for social distancing that governments have recommended people observe if required to leave their homes.
Additionally, the virus was "widely distributed on floors, computer mice, trash cans, and sickbed handrails," though the concentration was much higher in the intensive-care unit where coronavirus patients were being treated than in the hospital's general wards.
The positivity rate on floor samples was particularly high, "perhaps because of gravity and air flow causing most virus droplets to float to the ground," the study found.
COVID-19 can also "be tracked all over the floor," meaning "the soles of medical staff shoes might function as carriers," the study asserted.
Researchers disovered a "100 percent rate of positivity from the floor" of a hospital pharmacy, where no COVID-19 patients were present. They also found that "half the samples from the soles of the ICU medical staff shoes tested positive."
The study concluded by noting that no medical staff at the hospital where their study was conducted had tested positive for COVID-19 as of March 30, "indicating that appropriate precautions could effectively prevent infection."