• By now, everybody knows that being in crowded situations is one of the things that easily facilitates coronavirus transmission — and that you can protect yourself by social-distancing, in addition to wearing a face mask.
  • Dr. Anthony Fauci, however, says too many people are still forgetting one of the easiest ways that the COVID-19 virus can be spread.
  • The coronavirus can easily be passed from one person to another when they’re merely talking to each other — they don’t have to be sneezing or coughing, or showing any signs of being sick.

By now, everyone is familiar with and hopefully practicing the basics of good public health in the COVID-19 era, following guidelines that include wearing face masks, social-distancing, avoiding crowds, and regular hand-washing in order to curb the coronavirus’ transmission. Most public places — restaurants, retail stores, and the like — now require visitors to wear face masks, and it’s a good thing they do. A new study from researchers at the University of Tokyo found that face masks can block up to 90% of the coronavirus (though they don’t eliminate the risk of contagion entirely).

The nation’s leading infectious diseases expert, meanwhile, recently took the opportunity during a new interview to remind people that there are other super-easy ways for the coronavirus to be spread — that it’s not just the obvious droplets that are expelled when people cough or sneeze that you need to watch out for.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, who’s also the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, explained during an interview with the YouTube channel The Slo Mo Guys, that: “People have an understandable, but incorrect, interpretation that the only time you transmit infection is when you’re coughing and sneezing all over someone.”

Just simply talking to someone near you, however, can also do the trick:

“If you are speaking, even if you don’t speak loudly, you have these particles that come out, which can stay in the air for a period of time,” Fauci said. “Some of them fall to the ground — which is why we say keep six feet of distance — but some of them are aerosolized and can hang around the air for a period of time.”

That’s why, Fauci continued, face masks are so crucial and important during this pandemic. Even when you’re in a situation where it seems like everything is fine and no one is coughing or sneezing. Lest we forget, face masks also counterbalance the fact that a little less than half of the people who’ve been infected with the coronavirus don’t even show any symptoms at all, so the face mask can protect you without you even realize you need that protection.

Moreover, there was medical literature from as far back as April warning that the virus could be transmitted to a person who’s breathed in particles or liquid droplets in the air from an infected person. “Evolving laboratory research shows that COVID-19 remains viable in aerosols for up to three hours post-aerosolization, thus making aerosol transmission plausible,” wrote Cassandra D. Benge, PharmD, in the Federal Practitioner journal.

Andy is a reporter in Memphis who also contributes to outlets like Fast Company and The Guardian. When he’s not writing about technology, he can be found hunched protectively over his burgeoning collection of vinyl, as well as nursing his Whovianism and bingeing on a variety of TV shows you probably don’t like.