Science suggests low threat of outside COVID-19 transmission. Right here’s why

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To contain the tide of COVID-19, a general ban on outdoor recreational activities in Canada’s largest province of Ontario has raised some questions about outdoor transmission.

Under tightened new restrictions that went into effect on Saturday, Ontario ordered the closure of outdoor sports facilities, multi-purpose fields and parts of parks or recreation areas with outdoor fitness equipment. Picnic areas and tables were also closed.

However, experts argue that the risk of COVID-19 spreading outdoors is much lower compared to indoor activities.

“You know, you are robbing people of the safer options because you are doing nothing to affect the places where the disease spreads at a time when our intensive care units are literally collapsing,” said Dr. David Fisman, a professor at the University of Toronto and a member of the COVID-19 Science Advisory Table in Ontario, said.

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With natural outdoor ventilation, the flow of fresh air can dilute and disperse the virus particles, said Jean-Paul Soucy, an infectious disease epidemiologist and graduate student at the University of Toronto. Fresh air can also evaporate the droplets of liquid that carry the virus.

“The key here is ventilation,” said Soucy.

“Outside you have perfect ventilation. Virus particles are quickly dispersed. “

In addition, the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) light can have a sterilizing effect, experts say.

“If allowing a dozen outdoor gatherings in a park prevents just one indoor gathering, the tradeoff is well worth it from a transmission risk standpoint, not to mention the significant physical and mental health benefits,” Soucy said.



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Management of COVID-19 exposure risks outdoors


COVID-19 Exposure Risk Management Outdoors – April 11, 2021

In a previous interview with Global News, Dr. Zain Chagla, an infectious disease doctor at St. Joseph’s Healthcare in Hamilton, said that outdoor transmission “is not as common and tends to be in close contact with others for long periods of time. ”

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Several studies support this argument.

A systematic review of five peer-reviewed studies found that less than 10 percent of COVID-19 cases reported worldwide had occurred outdoors.

Research also showed that indoor transmission was almost 19 times more likely than outdoor spread.

Another peer-reviewed study from Italy published in the Environmental International Journal found that outdoor atmospheric concentrations of the coronavirus were very low.

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Ontario’s new measures came amid record levels of coronavirus cases and hospitalizations that devastated the province during the third wave of the pandemic.

The province also closed all outdoor recreational facilities in March last year.

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In addition to restricting outdoor gatherings to household members, a nationwide stay-at-home order has been extended to at least May 20.

Dr. Isaac Bogoch, an infectious disease specialist at Toronto General Hospital, argued that outdoor activities are vital to mental and physical health, especially when home stay orders are still in place.

“Ontario’s closure of outdoor recreational activities (including pickleball!) To control # COVID19 doesn’t make sense,” he wrote on Twitter.

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“The science is clear: COVID transmission outdoors is extremely rare.”

Ontario’s closure of outdoor recreational activities (including pickleball!) To control # COVID19 does not make sense.

Outdoor activities are vital to mental and physical health, especially when ordering at home.

The science is clear: outdoor COVID transmission is extremely rare. pic.twitter.com/F0RhBXe7MK

– Isaac Bogoch (@BogochIsaac) April 17, 2021

Other restrictions, including limiting the capacity for personal religious establishments, funerals and weddings to up to 10 people, went into effect Monday.

Public health experts and epidemiologists previously indicated that responsible recreation and outdoor gatherings are one of the last safe ways people can be in public settings during the pandemic.

“The biggest risk you run out of doors is exposing yourself to someone for a while,” Linsey Marr, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at Virginia Tech, told Global News in an earlier interview.

While recreational facilities where you are constantly with other people pose a “slightly higher risk” compared to other outdoor areas, wearing a mask can minimize that, Chagla said.

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Bogoch also suggested that people could wear a mask to stay protected when a physical distance of two meters is not possible.


Click to play the video: 'COVID-19 is crowding into popular outdoor areas'


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COVID-19 is crowding into popular outdoor areas


COVID-19 is crowding into popular outdoor areas

There is now evidence that warmer weather appears to lessen the spread of COVID-19.

“We know it is broadcast indoors in the workplace and other gatherings, and they have largely ignored much of it,” said Andrew Morris, an infectious disease specialist with the Sinai Health and University Health Network in Toronto.

After initially closing outdoor playgrounds, the provincial government pulled back over the weekend.

In a tweet on Saturday, Premier Doug Ford said, “Ontario’s expanded restrictions should always stop large gatherings that can spread.”

“Our regulations are changing to allow playgrounds, but outdoor gatherings are still enforced. Play safely outside. Parents keep their distance and wear masks when they can’t. “

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Ontario’s expanded restrictions should always stop large gatherings that can spread.

Our rules are changing to allow playgrounds, but outdoor gatherings will continue. Play safely outside. Parents keep their distance and wear masks when they can’t.

– Doug Ford (@fordnation) April 17, 2021

– With files from David Lao of Global News, Katherine Ward

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