University of Minnesota researchers simulate spread of coronavirus indoors, including classroom

(WSVN) - South Florida students are learning from home right now, but the goal is to get them safely back into the classroom. Reporter Karen Hensel shows us a classroom coronavirus study every parent will want to see in tonight’s 7 Investigates.

When it comes to spreading COVID-19, it’s what you can’t see that can harm you.

In this research simulation from the University of Minnesota, all of those red drops show the spread of coronavirus from people talking without masks.

The researchers tracked the aerosol droplets in three scenarios: a grocery store, an elevator and a classroom.

Researchers found the location of the ventilation system is a big factor.

In this simulation, the teacher, who does most of the talking, is at the front of the room.

The vent is in the back.

Aerosols exhaled from the teacher quickly spread through the classroom.

Dr. Suo Yang/Assistant Professor, Mechanical Engineering, University of Minnesota: “To our surprise, only about 10% of the aerosols are being vented out, and the majority of the aerosols are still in the room.”

Researcher Suo Yang says virus-carrying droplets are left covering walls and desks where they can remain for days.

Dr. Suo Yang: “So, if your hand touches it, and then, you touch your mouth or nose, then you have basically transferred the virus.”

This next simulation shows what happens when the ventilation is next to the teacher.

You can see many of the droplets being exhaled are sucked into the system and out of the room.

Dr. Suo Yang: “Specifically based on our study, I would put ventilation right above the teacher or near the teacher.”

Yang says the study has prompted more schools to buy air purifiers, which he thinks is a good idea.

Dr. Suo Yang: “So, there are two functions. One is to try to confine the aerosols near the teacher. Second is to purify the aerosol before it can reach the students.”

There’s better news for your grocery shopping trip.

A simulation was also run on the aisles of a grocery store.

The simulation showed 40% of what is exhaled by the shopper was filtered out of the store.

Yang says the long aisles with shoppers moving and high shelves are a big help in air circulation.

Dr. Suo Yang: “The shelves actually help improve the ventilation, and we have about half of the aerosols getting out.”

The third area they tested was inside an elevator. They say if you’re in here alone, you’re at a low risk, but if others are inside, they say don’t talk. By not speaking, you can reduce the number of potentially contaminated aerosols swirling in a small area.

University of Minnesota study:
twin-cities.umn.edu/news-events/new-study-explores-how-coronavirus-travels-indoors

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