Dr. Lee Ju-hyung has largely avoided restaurants in recent months, but on the few occasions he’s dined out, he’s developed a strange, if sensible, habit: whipping out a tiny anemometer to check the airflow. Here we have some South Korea Study on Coronavirus.
It’s a precaution he has been taking after a June experiment when he and colleagues recreated the conditions at a restaurant in Jeonju, a city in the southwest of South Korea, where diners contracted COVID-19 from an out-of-town tourist. Among them was a high school student who was infected with the coronavirus after five minutes of exposure from more than 20 feet away.
The results of the study, for which Lee and other epidemiologists enlisted the help of an engineer who specializes in aerodynamics, were published in the Journal of Korean Medical Science last week. The conclusions raised concerns that the widely accepted six-foot social distance requirement may not be far enough to keep individuals safe.
The report, adding to an increasing body of evidence on airborne virus transmission, highlighted how South Korea’s meticulous and sometimes invasive contact tracing regime has enabled researchers to closely watch how the virus moves through populations.
“The distances between infectors and infected persons in this outbreak were…. farther than the generally accepted 2 meters [6.6 foot] droplet transmission range,” the study’s authors wrote. “The Quarantine and Epidemiological Investigation Guidelines must be updated to reflect these factors for control and prevention of COVID-19.”
People wearing face masks walk past a coronavirus safety banner ad advising an improved social distancing campaign in Seoul.
KJ Seung, an infectious disease specialist and chief of strategy and policy for the nonprofit Partners in Health’s Massachusetts COVID response, said the study was a reminder of the risk of indoor transmission as many nations hunker down for the winter. The official definition of “close contact” – 15 minutes, withinsix feet – is not foolproof.
In his work on Massachusetts contact tracing program, he said, business owners and school administrators have concentrated on the “close contact” norm, believing just 14 minutes of exposure, or spending hours in the same room at a distance farther than six feet, is safe.
“There’s a real misconception about this in the public.” said Seung, who was not involved in the South Korea study.” “They think that if I am not in close contact, I will be protected by magic.”
Lee, a Jeonbuk National University Medical School professor who also helped local authorities in performing epidemiological investigations, went to the restaurant and was surprised at how far the two were seated. CCTV footage showed the two never spoke, or touched any common surfaces, door handles, cups, or cutlery. From the way of a light fixture, he could tell the air conditioning unit in the ceiling was on at the time. Some deep search of South Korea Study on Coronavirus.
Lee and his team recreated the conditions in the restaurant – researchers sat at tables as stand-ins – and measured the airflow. The high school student and a third diner who were infected had been sitting directly along with the flow of air from an air conditioner; other diners who had their back to the airflow were not infected. Through genome sequencing, the team confirmed the three patients’ virus genomic types matched.
The study echoed the results of a July study out of Guangzhou, China, which looked at infections among three families who dined at a restaurant along the flow of air-conditioning in tables that were three feet apart, overlapping for about an hour. Ten of the diners tested coronavirus-positive. Similarly, contact tracers in South Korea mapped out a major outbreak at a Starbucks in Paju in August, when a woman sitting under a second-floor ceiling air conditioning unit infected 27 people.
Seung, of Partners in Health, said by retracing infection routes epidemiological investigators in South Korea had helped researchers worldwide better understand the coronavirus’ spread.
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