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The COVID-19 Coronavirus: How Is it Spread?

Each day, the world is waking up to new reports documenting the high rates of infections of the novel Coronavirus, COVID-19. Despite public health officials’ efforts, television hosts, Instagram influencers, TV personalities, Facebook, and other platforms continue to spread false information about how COVID-19 is spread, and the best methods to reduce transmission. Here, we will look at fact vs. fiction of how the Coronavirus is spread, and what you can to help keep you and your family safe.

COVID-19 Spreads through Respiratory Droplets

Coronavirus Spread

Coronavirus Spreading Concerns

The CDC has reported that COVID-19 is primarily spread through respiratory droplets. While these may be from a contagious person, they can also be on surfaces, or if the person comes in contact with the droplet directly (i.e. being coughed or sneezed on).

What are Respiratory Droplets?When you sneeze or cough, you send out droplets of fluid from your nose and mouth. Those droplets can carry infections, and when they enter someone else’s eyes, nose or mouth, the infection can make them sick. The viruses live in saliva and mucus and when you cough or sneeze, those droplets can spread as far as 6 feet away from you.

A single cough can produce up to 3,000 droplets. These droplets can land on people, clothing, surfaces, and can possibly remain in the air before they come in contact with another person.

COVID-19 May Spread Through Fecal Matter

Some reports suggest that COVID-19 may be able to shed in fecal matter. While most people may think this would be easy to avoid, fecal matter has an unsettling ability to contaminate multiple surfaces. Persons who have used the restroom, but fail to wash their hands carefully can contaminate anything they touch. Fecal matter has been found in in ice machines, soda machines, lemon wedges, and other unassuming locations in bars and restaurants.

COVID-19 Spreads When People Stand Close Together

The World Health Organization (WHO) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have recommended that individuals maintain a distance of at least 6 feet apart to reduce the spread of infection. This is because 6 feet is the estimated distance that respiratory droplets can travel through the air after a cough or a sneeze.

While this probably most frequently happens in the household, there are myriad places we go in our day-to-day lives that require people to be closer than 6 feet apart. Many workspaces, offices, and restaurants require people to be positioned much closer. Individuals sitting at the same dining table or even next to another patron in a bar are well within 6 feet of one another. Elevators provide a particularly enclosed area that also has a small-shared airspace. Checkout lines and pick up windows similarly require individuals to stand closer than 6 feet to one another.

Traditionally, most infectious diseases were thought to be limited to a 3-foot radius. However, in re-evaluating these guidelines, the CDC found this might have grossly underestimated the area at risk for direct infection.

Analyzing studies that used smallpox and investigations conducted during the global SARS outbreak of 2003 “suggest that droplets from patients with these two infections could reach persons located 6 feet or more from their source.” (CDC Infection Control Guidelines.) The CDC noted that it “is likely that the distance droplets travel depends on the velocity and mechanism by which respiratory droplets are propelled from the source, the density of respiratory secretions, environmental factors such as temperature and humidity, and the ability of the pathogen to maintain infectivity over that distance.’ (Id.)

Based on these considerations, the CDC has amended its guidelines, and concluded that a prudent area is 6 to 10 feet away from a suspected infected person.

Considering these guidelines, even individuals who are not feeling ill are advised to stay at least 6 feet apart from other individuals.

CDC guidelines warn that air currents and specific circumstances would allow respiratory droplets to travel even further distances. For certain other respiratory infectious agents, such as influenza generally, and even some gastrointestinal viruses (e.g., norovirus and rotavirus) there is some evidence that the pathogen may be transmitted via small-particle aerosols, under natural and experimental conditions. Such transmission has occurred over distances longer than 3 feet but within a defined airspace (e.g., patient hospital room), suggesting that it is unlikely that these agents remain viable on air currents that travel long distances. To date, there has been no evidence to suggest that COVID-19 can travel exceptional distances through the air necessitating more than 6 feet of separation.

COVID-19 is Spread by People with No Symptoms

Many recent reports have concluded that people with mild symptoms of COVID-19 or those who are apparently asymptomatic may be the main drivers for the spread of the disease. While this information is still developing, data from China appears to suggest individuals are able to spread COVID-19 without their knowledge.

In research published on March 16, 2020, researchers found that 86 percent of all infections—6 out of every 7– were undetected prior to the government invoking travel restrictions in January. Researchers believe this was because a majority of these infections were mild with very few, if any symptoms. Those infected likely did not recognize that they had come down with COVID-19, believing they had only a mild cold.

Notably, those without symptoms are considered less contagious than those with symptoms. This is because if the person is not coughing or sneezing, they are less likely to contaminate persons or surfaces with respiratory droplets.

However, persons with no symptoms are more likely to continue to spend time in the community, with family, and at work. Thus, despite the lower number of droplets they are likely to expel, these people may still be the biggest carriers of the disease. Approximately two thirds of all infections are believed to be traced to persons who were experiencing little to no symptoms at the time of transmission.

COVID-19 Contradicts Traditional Knowledge That Only “Sick” People are Contagious

Common knowledge has traditionally been that avoiding people with flu-like symptoms will help keep you healthy. In fact, at the start of the COVID-19 outbreak, many health officials emphasized this same outdated knowledge. Even China, which was hailed by WHO for its efforts to slow the spread of COVID-19, relied heavily on monitoring persons presenting with a fever.

China placed government officials outside of apartment buildings, commuter stations, and common areas to check the temperature of all persons passing through. While this is very effective in detecting individuals who are presenting with a fever, it is unable to detect the high number of people who have contracted the virus, are contagious, but have not yet begun to show any symptoms.

Respiratory Droplets Can Contaminate Surfaces After the Infected Person has Left

You can contract COVID-19 by touching surfaces that have respiratory droplets on them. Respiratory droplets can contaminate surfaces, even after the surface is not noticeably wet.

The CDC states that COVID-19 can be stable for several hours to days on surfaces. Scientist have found that COVID-19 was detectible in aerosols for up to three hours, up to four hours on copper, up to 24 hours on cardboard, and up to two to three days on plastic and stainless steel.

Recent reports have similarly found that bank ATMs, elevator buttons, and gas-pumping stations may be the source of a high number of infections due the virus’ ability to stay on these commonly touched surfaces for long periods.

COVID-19 Can Spread Due to Its Long Incubation Period

INCUBATION PERIOD: The incubation period for COVID-19 is the time between when a person contracts COVID-19 and when that person begins experiencing symptoms. As outlined above, this could be the most dangerous period of infection as this is the period a carrier is most likely to infect other individuals without their knowledge.

As with all viruses, the incubation period for COVID-19 can vary from person to person. The CDC states the incubation period for COVID-19 can be between 2 and 14 days, depending on the severity of infection and the individual. This means that some persons may be infected and contagious for up to two weeks before they experience any symptoms.

The average incubation period is approximately five days, with a majority of persons reporting symptoms within 12 days of exposure. Indeed, 97 percent of those infected began to show symptoms within 11.5 days of exposure.

This is significantly longer than the incubation period of previous high profile outbreaks. For example, SARS has a typical incubation period of 2-7 days. This means COVID-19 can be “stealth” for nearly twice as long.

Failure to Wash Hands Thoroughly Can Spread COVID-19

There is unfortunately a well-documented history of people failing to wash their hands thoroughly. An estimated four out of five people do not properly wash their hands after using the bathroom worldwide. In an independent investigation, one report found that 90 percent of people failed to wash and dry their hands appropriately after handling raw chicken, and only 30 percent of people working in a domestic kitchen properly washed their hands.

Everyone knows you are supposed to wash your hands, so why are so many people not doing it? The answer may be that many people do not know how to wash their hands properly. Even for those that do it dozens of times a day, many may be falling short of effectively washing their hands.

WHO recommends that to wash hands effectively, individuals need to use clean water and soap. Hands should be rubbed together for at least 20 seconds, followed by rinsing. Hands must also be dried using either disposable kitchen paper or a clean hand towel. WHO specifically instructs people to rubs hands palm to palm, rub interlacing fingers, the backs of fingers, specifically encapsulating the thumb, and cleaning the tips of fingers by rubbing tips of fingers into the palm. Many will recognize that this is slightly more detailed than the quick lather they have seen others do, or perhaps do themselves.

While many people are turning to hand sanitizer in recent weeks, the CDC warns that hand sanitizers are no substitute for “good old fashioned” soap and warm water.

Soap and water are more effective than hand sanitizers at removing certain kinds of germs, including the Coronavirus. Although alcohol-based hand sanitizers can inactivate many types of microbes very effectively when used correctly, they are not an equal substitute.

The CDC recommends washing hands with soap and water whenever possible because handwashing reduces the amounts of all types of germs and chemicals on hands. But if soap and water are not available, using a hand sanitizer can help you avoid getting sick and spreading germs to others.

In order to be effective at eradicating contagions, hand sanitizers must also be at least 60 percent alcohol. Many studies have found that sanitizers with an alcohol concentration between 60–95 percent are more effective at killing germs than those with a lower alcohol concentration or non-alcohol-based hand sanitizers. Hand sanitizers without 60-95 percent alcohol (1) may not work equally well for many types of germs; and (2) merely reduce the growth of germs rather than kill them outright. Nonetheless, this has not stopped many lower concentration hand sanitizers from hitting the market. Many consumers may unknowingly be relying on hand sanitizers that are not recommended for use by the CDC for use against the Coronavirus.

Gomez Trial Attorneys and Your Legal Rights

During this troubled and unprecedented time, Gomez Trial Attorneys looks forward to the opportunity to lead in the protection of your legal rights.

Individuals who risk the health and safety of those around them may be liable for the harm they have caused. Employers and businesses particularly have a duty to ensure that they provide a safe environment for their clients, customers, and employees. Those that have been harmed by the negligent acts of others may have a legal action.

Gomez Trial Attorneys is a modern, fast-paced law firm that has the resources, staff, prestige, and reputation to provide you the best possible representation throughout California. If we can recover by way of a settlement that is in the best interest of our client, we will do so. However, if we need to proceed to trial to protect the rights of our clients, we will not hesitate to do so. Contact the lawyers at Gomez Trial Attorneys if your legal rights have been affected by the Coronavirus.

Our firm represents clients in San Diego, throughout the entire state of California, and nationwide. Our attorneys are leaders in the communities and on the frontlines of creative development of legal cases. We brainstorm together and put forward dedicated passion and work ethic to get our clients the best results possible.


Gomez Trial Attorneys
655 West Broadway, Suite 1700
San Diego, CA 92101
Phone: (619)-237-3490

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