Throughout the coronavirus outbreak, social-distancing guidelines have recommended staying six feet or more from others to reduce the risk of spreading the illness.
But one researcher is speaking out with warnings that the virus can travel farther and linger longer than is commonly assumed, reports NY Post.
MIT associate professor Lydia Bourouiba warns in newly published research that current advisories to keep six feet away from others are based on outdated models from the 1930s.
Bourouiba, who has studied the dynamics of sneezing and coughing for years, warns that “pathogen-bearing droplets of all sizes can travel 23 to 27 feet.”
Bourouiba also warned that, in addition to the possibility of airborne droplets settling to contaminate surfaces, infectious particles may “stay suspended in the air for hours.”
In her findings, Bourouiba points to a report from China earlier this year that claimed “virus particles could be found in the ventilation systems in hospital rooms of patients with COVID-19.”
Given her research, Bourouiba expresses concern that existing guidelines are “overly simplified” and may slow down progress against fighting the virus.
She also fears that healthcare workers won’t be be adequately protected.
Speaking to USA Today, she said: “There’s an urgency in revising the guidelines currently being given by the [World Health Organization] and the [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] on the needs for protective equipment, particularly for the frontline healthcare workers.”
In response, the World Health Organization told USA Today that it “welcomed” studies that can shine new light on the unpredictable virus.
“WHO carefully monitors emerging evidence about this critical topic and will update this scientific brief as more information becomes available,” WHO said in a statement to the paper.