/In One Chart: When 6 feet isn’t nearly enough to keep you safe from the coronavirus

In One Chart: When 6 feet isn’t nearly enough to keep you safe from the coronavirus


Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp, in a controversial move, may have given the restaurants in his state the green light to reopen next week, but it remains to be seen if customers are ready to dine out as the coronavirus pandemic continues to take its toll around the country.

This chart probably won’t help fill the seats:

That visual comes from a paper set to be published in an upcoming issue of Emerging Infectious Diseases, a journal published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It diagrams a restaurant in China where one diner — the “A1” yellow circle — was infected but asymptomatic.

He spread the disease to nine other diners near him.

There were 73 other diners and eight workers on the same floor of the restaurant, and none of them contracted COVID-19. Nevertheless, they were all quarantined for 14 days.

According to the study, the air conditioner spread the particles around the room, which illustrates just some of the challenges restaurants will have to grapple with as they try to revive their businesses.

“In this outbreak, droplet transmission was prompted by air-conditioned ventilation. The key factor for infection was the direction of the airflow,” the authors wrote. “To prevent the spread of the virus in restaurants, we recommend increasing the distance between tables and improving ventilation.”

The good news is that the fact that nobody got sick aside from those in the general vicinity of the initial spreader suggests that the coronavirus is primarily transmitted through larger respiratory droplets, instead of the smaller droplets, or aerosols, that can float in the air for hours.

Harvey V. Fineberg of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine, described the report as “provocative and eye-opening” to the New York Times, adding that restaurants should be mindful of the direction of airflow when they arrange their tables.

“It’s illuminating for the kind of thing we need to keep learning about as we try to configure safe work spaces,” he said. “Not just safe restaurant and entertainment venues but where you go to work.”

Meanwhile, the U.S. continues to have the highest number of COVID-19 cases in the world, with more than 825,000, including 45,075 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University. The global tally climbed to 2.58 million on Tuesday. At least 692,333 people have recovered.

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