Being outdoors doesn’t mean you’re safe from COVID-19
- just ask Trump's White House guests
Posted on 12.10.2020
If you think you’re safe from coronavirus just because you’re outdoors, think again.
While the wind and the large volume of air make the outdoors less risky than being indoors, circumstances matter.
Someone who is infectious can cough or sneeze, or just talk and, if you happen to inhale those respiratory droplets or they plop into your eye, you can get infected.
If you shake hands with an infected person and then touch your eyes, nose or mouth, you also run a chance of getting infected. You don’t have to be inhaling an infected person’s air for very long. What matters is the dose.
As an infectious disease doctor, I get a lot of questions from patients about COVID-19 risks. Here are some answers about the risks outdoors.
Doesn’t wind make outside safer than inside?
It’s true the wind helps disperse respiratory droplets that can carry viruses.
When you’re indoors, one of the big concerns about how the coronavirus spreads is aerosols — tiny, light droplets people emit along with larger droplets when they breathe.
These particles can linger in the air, and the concentration can build up in enclosed, poorly ventilated spaces. There’s less of a risk in open outdoor settings because of the sheer volume of air and available space to physically distance.
At least one study, not yet peer-reviewed, found COVID-19 patients were nearly 20 times more likely to have been infected indoors than outdoors.
But that doesn’t mean you’re in a protective bubble when outdoors.
Think of coronavirus like a sexually transmitted disease — everyone claims to behave safely, but do you really know where they’ve been? It just takes one infected person … there is a lot we still don’t know about coronavirus, including what the long-term damage is. Regardless of how old you are or how healthy, do what you can to avoid the virus until there’s a vaccine.
Please note: This article is written from a perspective of the Unites States COVID environment, rather than the Queensland/Australian situation.
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