Masks and ventilation more effective that physical distancing in preventing Covid-19 spread, study finds

The coronavirus pandemic is far from over and scientists are still trying to find out better ways to contain the virus.

A recent study from the University of Central Florida suggests that wearing a mask and a well-ventilated setup are more important than social distancing.

According to the research published in the journal Physics of Fluid, with masks on, physical distancing does not have any substantial impact on the transmission of airborne particles.

For the study, a computer model of a classroom with teachers and student was created with a modelled airflow and disease transmission risk.

The classroom was 709 square feet with 9-foot-tall ceilings, like any average size of a classroom. There was a teacher at the front of a classroom and each student wore a mask, any of these students could be infected. This class’s case was investigated using two scenarios: one with ventilation and one without.

The experiment was carried out using the Wells-Riley and Computational Fluid Dynamics models (which are used to understand indoor transmission probability) and Computational Fluid Dynamics models (which are used to understand the aerodynamics of cars and planes).

The results suggested that masks prevent any direct exposure to aerosols. The puff of warm air created by the mask helped to prevent the exposure to particles in the air as it caused vertical movement of these aerosols and prevented them from reaching the adjacent student.

Further, the study also suggested that a good ventilated setup coupled with proper air filtration reduced the transmission chanced by 40 to 50 per cent when compared to a non-ventilated setup.

When the researchers compared the two models, they discovered that Wells-Riley and Computational Fluid Dynamics produced similar results, especially in the non-ventilated scenario, but that Wells-Riley underestimated infection likelihood by about 29% in the ventilated scenario.

As a result, the report also suggests considering the complex findings of Computational Fluid Dynamics while studying the topic to develop a better understanding of transmission risks.