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Turn fight against COVID-19 indoors, new paper says

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Posted: Tuesday, April 20, 2021. 2:58 pm CST.

By Aaron Humes: A report in the journal Lancet last week from epidemiologists and experts across Canada, the United States and the United Kingdom found overwhelming evidence that COVID-19 is mostly spread by aerosols – prompting them to conclude that we need to be focusing on preventing infections in indoor settings, and rethinking how ventilation systems either help spread or dissipate the virus, Global News of Canada reports.

According to University of Toronto Professor Dr. David Fisman, one of the authors of the study, the results of the report come as an important implication for experts and governments to consider more stringent measures public health control measures in indoor spaces.

Public health guidance on the spread of COVID-19 has, for the most part, been widely focused on direct contact with others and transmission via water droplets. The evidence from Fisman and his colleagues’ review, however, points to aerosols as potentially being the main mode of transmission for the virus.

New or refocused measures to address the spread include a focus on breathing fresh air either through ventilation or moving activities outside, said Fisman. Other measures could also include using more air cleaners equipped with HEPA filters or better respirators — particularly in high-risk, essential and healthcare workplaces — in order to prevent people from inhaling aerosols.

University of Colorado professor Jose-Luis Jimenez cited several pieces of evidence he and his team used for the report on Twitter Saturday.

“Transmission is 20 times more efficient indoors than outdoors,” wrote Jimenez, who cited a review from The Journal of Infectious Diseases.

Zeynep Tufekci. a professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, said that because the disease was “predominantly airborne,” it doesn’t mean masks and social distancing were useless, but that now they have better ways at mitigating infections now that they have a stronger grasp on how the virus is transmitted.

According to Fisman, the issue of pre-symptomatic transmission of COVID-19 — how the virus is spread before a patient starts to exhibit symptoms — also “strongly implies” aerosol.

In January, hundreds of doctors, scientists and experts from across Canada all called for more aggressive measures to stop the airborne spread of COVID-19.

In an open letter address to the country’s top doctor, health minister and all of the provincial premiers and medical officers, the experts urged public health messaging to more strongly warn of the risks of being in enclosed spaces. They also called for more stringent inspections and upgrades of ventilation systems in areas like schools and long-term care homes, as well as essential institutions.

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