There are now a number of studies that have tried to quantify the risk of Covid spreading outdoors
In some U.S. cities like Washington, New York, and San Francisco, this is a familiar sight: people walking on the streets, riding bicycles, or sitting in parks with masks on, even when they are far from others.
Certain states, such as Maine, have maintained mask mandates on outdoor trails and beaches.
So where is the evidence? And do public health measures that go beyond science, or when people behave more cautiously than they need to, harm?
Outdoors are much safer
Scientists have learned a lot about COVID-19 since the beginning of the pandemic.
In terms of the way it is transmitted, we now know that surfaces are not a primary vector and increased disinfection efforts are an improper use of time and resources.
Second, the top experts now believe that the disease is primarily airborne.
That said, it’s mainly spread by fine breath particles that float in the air for some time – as opposed to larger droplets from coughing and sneezing that quickly fall to the ground.
This, in turn, makes the outdoors much safer than the indoors, said Jose-Luis Jimenez, a senior aerosol scientist at the University of Colorado Boulder.
“Indoor spaces are much more dangerous because the walls, ceiling and floor trap the air,” he told AFP.
Top experts now believe that the disease occurs primarily in the air and that surfaces are not a primary vector
“They are much less risky outdoors because there is much more air moving,” and the exhaled air rises, especially in warmer weather.
However, a low risk means no risk.
Just as you may have to inhale some smoke outdoors when you are near a smoker, there is a small chance that you will catch COVID if you spend long periods of time in close proximity to a wearer outdoors.
What is the likelihood of infection?
There are now a number of studies that have tried to quantify the risk of COVID spreading outdoors.
Last October, Chinese researchers published an article in Indoor Air magazine that compiled information on 7,324 cases and provided information on where the virus was caught.
Only one documented outbreak occurred outdoors in a village in Shangqiu, Henan, where a 27-year-old man became infected after speaking with an outdoor transportation company in January 2020.
Some experts say that the virus is much less risky to spread outdoors, as there is much more air moving and the exhaled air rising
More recently, the Irish Times asked government agencies for information on 232,164 cases of COVID caught in the country as of March 24, 2021.
A total of 262 were broadcasts outdoors, which is just 0.1 percent of the total.
It is even possible that this estimate is high as the government agency relied on unverified reports that these outdoor activities – like construction or sports – were involved and these may not have been responsible for the people involved who were also in Gathered indoors.
Donald Milton, a professor at the University of Maryland and a pioneer in aerosol science, advises people to avoid the crowds in the open air, especially when it comes to shouting and the air being stagnant.
But he doesn’t think you have to wear your mask all the time.
“When I jog in my neighborhood, where houses are 10 meters or more apart and few people walk with dogs or children in courtyards, I wear a mask with me,” he said.
“I can’t walk very far while wearing it in warmer weather. Then when I stop chatting with other people, I can put it on. When I go for a walk with friends, I wear one.”
While experts say the virus is much less risky to spread outdoors, low risk means no risk
The wearing of masks became a politicized issue at the beginning of the pandemic in the United States. Some conservatives, spurred on by former President Donald Trump, viewed them as an affront to their personal freedom.
Liberals in general took the virus more seriously, viewing masks outdoors as a means to show solidarity with their community in times of crisis.
However, Amesh Adalja, a public health expert at Johns Hopkins University, said it was time to recall mandates on outside masks and take a more nuanced approach that is better aligned with science.
“Because masks are so steeped in politics, they have become something where people go around and ‘mask’ other people, and I think that’s counterproductive,” he said.
“We want people who are particularly not vaccinated to wear masks when they are indoors where they have no social distance.”
In addition, measures that create the impression that nature is risky tend to drive people indoors, which is much more dangerous, he added.
Wearing masks became a politicized topic early in the pandemic in the United States
Some experts argue that the value of outdoor mask mandates is to keep the news simple enough for the public to understand – but Adalja disagrees.
“I think that does nothing more than break trust between health officials and the public,” he said, adding that non-experts are able to read medical journals and tell when the official news is coming from deviate from the evidence.
Follow the latest news on the Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak
© 2021 AFP
Quote: Do we need masks outdoors? Weighing Experts (2021, April 19), accessed April 19, 2021 from https://medicalxpress.com/news/2021-04-masks-outdoors-experts.html
This document is subject to copyright. Except for fair trade for the purpose of private study or research, no part may be reproduced without written permission. The content is provided for informational purposes only.