Cloth Coverings in Public Spaces May Slow Virus Spread

(Reuters) – Covering furniture in hospitals and offices with surfaces that speed evaporation of respiratory droplets will slow the spread of COVID-19, a new study suggests.

Earlier research found that the virus remains active for a longer time on impermeable surfaces. In the new study, researchers found that once respiratory droplets disappear, a thin liquid film remains over the exposed solid area that serves as a medium for virus survival. That thin film evaporates much faster on porous surfaces, they noted in a report published Wednesday in Physics of Fluids.

They found that the virus can survive four days on glass and seven days on plastic or stainless steel, but only two days on cloth and three hours on paper.

“Based on our study, we recommend that furniture in hospitals and offices made of impermeable material, such as glass, stainless steel, or laminated wood, be covered with porous material, such as cloth, to reduce the risk of infection upon touch,” coauthor Sanghamitro Chatterjee of the Indian Institute of Technology Bombay in Mumbai said in a statement.

Her team says seats in public places could also be covered with cloth to lessen the risk of disease spread.

SOURCE: Physics of Fluid, online February 9, 2021.

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