In a blow to extroverts everywhere, research has found that if you’re infected with coronavirus, speaking to a friend could be as dangerous as coughing near them. All thanks to lingering particles.
If you’re curious as to what lingering particles are, they’re tiny droplets (known as aerosols) that can carry the virus over distances greater than two metres. The lingering part is pretty self-explanatory. Results from experts have shown that it only takes a couple of seconds for these expelled particles to travel that distance.
One thing researchers found was that an hour after an infected person had spoken for a grand total of 30 seconds, the total aerosol left contained “much more” viral mass than after a single cough.
Whether you’ll catch COVID from a single conversation is dependant on several factors. These include: How much of the aerosol you’ve breathed in; whether masks are worn; if you’re conversing indoors; if the area you’re in is well ventilated; and how far apart you’re standing from your conversation partner.
Their belief? If you’re talking in a small space, without ventilation, that situation may be enough to cause infection.
Co-author of the study, Professor Pedro Magalhães de Oliveira, said: “Speaking is a very important issue that has to be considered because it produces much finer particles [than coughing] and these particles, or aerosol, can be suspended for over an hour in amounts that are sufficient to cause the disease.”
If you’re interested in exploring the risk of becoming infected indoors — a major way in which COVID is spread — they’ve developed an online calculator called Airborne.cam. Keep in mind that the infection risks are only theoretical estimates, but it can help you explore ways to stay safe in different scenarios.
The conclusion of this study is that it’s unsafe to stand without a mask two metres away from an infected person, if they’re talking or if they’re coughing. Both situations pose an infection risk. So extroverts, you can breathe easy — as long as you’ve got your mask on.