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Why You Should Avoid Hotel Elevators During The Pandemic

Topic: Why You Should Avoid Hotel Elevators During The Pandemic

Next time you book a hotel, consider asking for a room on a lower floor. Taking the stairs may be good for your health in more ways than one.

There’s a growing body of evidence that using an elevator can increase the risk of contracting COVID-19, including research indicating that the virus can linger in an elevator after an infected person has gotten off.

A recent article in the Emerging Infectious Diseases Journal details how a large COVID-19 outbreak in China was traced back to one asymptomatic individual who infected a neighbor when they used the same elevator in their apartment building — though they were not in the elevator at the same time.

In a new study from the University of Minnesota College of Science and Engineering, researchers modeled how the coronavirus spreads in different interior spaces, including an elevator. The researchers factored in the level of ventilation, where the infected person stood in the elevator, and whether or not he spoke while inside.

In the best-case scenario — an infected person simply breathes in a well-ventilated elevator — 78% of emitted particles remain suspended in the air. In the worst case scenario — an infected person speaks in a poorly ventilated elevator — 99% of emitted particles remain suspended in the air. The researchers found that even in a well-ventilated elevator, just under 15% of emitted particles are vented out of the space; in a poorly ventilated elevator, that percentage dropped down to zero percent.

Back in April, Richard Corsi, dean of engineering and computer science at Portland State University, also developed a computer model to calculate how much virus remains in an elevator after an unmasked infected person exited after riding 10 floors, coughing once and talking on a smartphone.

According to Corsi’s calculations, which he shared on Twitter and later with The New York Times, approximately 25 percent of the infected person’s viral particle discharge would still remain in the empty elevator when it returned to the first floor.

“They should put big signs on the elevator: ‘Do Not Speak,’” Corsi told The New York Times. That is because the virus can spread through tiny particles, called aerosols, that are expelled when people breathe, talk or sing.

Over the past two months, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has steadily ramped up its advice for using elevators.

In June, the CDC updated its travel guidelines for overnight stays to include: “Consider taking the stairs. Otherwise wait to use the elevator until you can either ride alone or only with people from your household.”

Topic Discussed: Why You Should Avoid Hotel Elevators During The Pandemic

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