(CBS News) — Research from Finland attempts to show how fast and far a single cough can spread the kind of aerosol particles that carry the new coronavirus through a typical grocery store. A digital model built by Aalto University in Finland, using data gathered by researchers there and at three other research institutes, was released with a warning: “It is important to avoid busy public indoor spaces.”
Aalto University, the Finnish Meteorological Institute, VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland and the University of Helsinki all conducted the same digital modeling experiment independently, and they all got pretty much the same preliminary data.
That data shows the tiny airborne particles emitted with a cough, sneeze “or even talking” spread in an invisible cloud that lingers for several minutes and spreads quickly over store shelves.
“Someone infected by the coronavirus can cough and walk away, but then leave behind extremely small aerosol particles carrying the coronavirus. These particles could then end up in the respiratory tract of others in the vicinity,” Aalto University assistant professor Ville Vuorinen said in a report on the modeling.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that people wear cloth face coverings in public places like grocery stores where it’s difficult to social distance. The recommendation aims to prevent people who may unknowingly be infected with COVID-19 from spreading it to others.
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