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Don’t stop washing your hands, but airborne coronavirus also demands new strategies

COVID-19 could spread through multiple routes, so experts say people should take a variety of precautions

Meg Wingerter
Denver Post
Thatcher, 5, of Steamboat Springs demonstrates how to properly wash hands with soap and water.
Bryce Martin

DENVER — When COVID-19 reached the United States earlier this year, much of what we were told to do to stay safe, like washing our hands frequently and standing six feet apart, was based on the idea that the virus primarily spread through droplets people coughed or sneezed out.

Now, consensus is increasing in the scientific community that droplets aren’t the only problem we need to worry about. Much smaller water particles that we produce while speaking or even breathing, called aerosols, also can carry the virus, and they can stay in the air far longer than the droplets.

It’s important to understand how a virus spreads, because the control methods are different, said Dr. Jonathan Samet, dean of the Colorado School of Public Health. Large droplets can be contained if people wear masks in public, and cleaned from surfaces where they land, but smaller aerosols are different.

Homemade masks generally can’t contain particles that small, though there’s still a benefit to wearing them to reduce droplet transmission, Samet said. For aerosols, the best methods are avoiding higher-risk settings, and increasing ventilation in public spaces as much as possible, he said.

Read more from the Denver Post.


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