The COVID Cloud

Posted: March 19, 2020 in COVID-19
Tags: , ,

While walking through the park a few days ago, I realized I’m looking at people differently. I’m not wondering if they are infected. Why bother, when I know asymptomatic people can be contagious?

Instead, I envision everyone with a cloud around them—like Pigpen in Peanuts. The cloud is densest right next to their bodies and fades over 6 feet. When they hold still, I “see” the cloud getting denser. As they walk around, the cloud thins out. If they cough or sneeze, the cloud darkens in a cone-shaped field from their face outward.

This imaginary cloud represents a field of respiratory particles – the small droplets we breathe out of our noses and mouths continuously. I can’t tell if the virus is hitchhiking on anyone’s particles, so I just avoid the clouds!

When you pass through someone’s outer cloud, your chance of inhaling a respiratory particle is extremely low. But if you sit or stand next to them, particularly within 3 feet, you’re basically breathing in their cloud. The longer you stay there, the greater the chance you’ll in suck in their particles.

The cloud concept makes me less anxious about brief interpersonal contact. If two people reach for the same box of cereal in the grocery store, that’s “outer cloud” contact and has minimal risk. Same thing with taking a package from a delivery person or walking past someone. You’re  just brushing their mist, and you’re not there for long.

But when you sit next to someone at church or do shots at a bar, you’re sharing respiratory particles the whole time. If one of you happens to be infected, chances are reasonable the other person could breathe in the virus. So, when you fret about the closure of your favorite watering hole, just envision it filled with 6-foot clouds. I guarantee your mindset will shift.

Stay healthy.

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