- A new study finds that shorter people are at a higher risk of contracting the coronavirus due to the downward trajectory of droplets.
- The study was recently published in the peer-reviewed Physics of Fluid journal.
When the coronavirus pandemic first started sweeping across the country in March, a particularly tall friend of mine joked that he was less likely to come into contact with the virus because of his height. When asked to elaborate, he jokingly said his head — which is perched atop a 6’6 frame — was simply too high to come into contact with coronavirus particles floating in the air. Come to find out, a new physics simulation carried out by researchers in Singapore bears this out and shows that shorter people are more likely to contract the coronavirus than taller people, all other things being equal.
The peer-reviewed study was recently published in the Physics of Fluid journal and set out to measure the trajectory of coronavirus droplets when coughed into an outdoor environment. The study found that large droplets can travel up to a distance of 21 feet under proper wind conditions, and even further if the air happens to be dry. A much smaller droplet, meanwhile, might only travel a little more than three feet.
At the same time, the report notes that larger droplets tend to “settle quickly due to gravity” while smaller droplets have a tendency to linger in the air for longer. The lingering droplets naturally increase the likelihood that non-infected persons in the vicinity will come into contact with the virus. In turn, being taller provides a small measure of protection if an infected person happens to be shorter. Conversely, being shorter and around someone taller who has the coronavirus could increase the likelihood of transmission.
The study notes:
Young children may be at greater risk compared to adults based on the typical downward cough trajectory. Teenagers and short adults are advised to maintain a social distance greater than 2 m from taller persons. Surgical masks are known to be effective at trapping large droplets and therefore recommended for use as necessary.
Note that two meters is about six and a half feet, which is to say the 6-foot yardstick for social distancing should be viewed as a minimum recommendation.
The coronavirus, meanwhile, is still surging across a majority of U.S. states. Over the weekend, the number of daily new infections skyrocketed to 126,000. Meanwhile, the coronavirus infection rate in the U.S. has increased by nearly 60% over the last two weeks alone.
Looking ahead, experts have been warning that the situation is poised to get much worse once cooler weather settles across the country. One of the reasons behind this warning is that the coronavirus simply spreads more easily in colder air environments. Aside from the fact that the coronavirus doesn’t survive as ably on surfaces in humid weather, studies have shown that coronavirus droplets linger in the air longer when the air is cool and dry. This, in turn, increases the likelihood that someone will come into contact with the virus.
The only good news amidst a sea of worrisome coronavirus statistics is that Pfizer today announced that a vaccine candidate they’ve been working on may be 90% effective.
A few of the highlights from Pfizer’s press release include:
- Vaccine candidate was found to be more than 90% effective in preventing COVID-19 in participants without evidence of prior SARS-CoV-2 infection in the first interim efficacy analysis
- Analysis evaluated 94 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in trial participants
- Study enrolled 43,538 participants, with 42% having diverse backgrounds, and no serious safety concerns have been observed; Safety and additional efficacy data continue to be collected
- Submission for Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) planned for soon after the required safety milestone is achieved, which is currently expected to occur in the third week of November
- Clinical trial to continue through to final analysis at 164 confirmed cases in order to collect further data and characterize the vaccine candidate’s performance against other study endpoints
If all goes according to plan, the company is planning to manufacture 50 million doses by the end of 2020 and 1.3 billion doses in 2021.