COVID: Why Masks Are Necessary Outdoors, Especially When It’s Windy

It is true that outdoor activities pose a lower risk of getting COVID than indoor activities; However, to avoid the spread of the virus as much as possible, masks may also be necessary outdoors, especially when there is wind. And experts from the Indian Institute of Technology Bombay (IIT) conducted various experiments to explain why.

Using mathematical models and laboratory simulations, the researchers examined how SARS-CoV-2 can spread in windy conditions at different speeds, and in still conditions, such as those found indoors.

IIT Bombay specialists showed that when a COVID-infected person coughs outdoors, a gust of wind can spread the virus further and faster than when there is no current. For example, a small five-mile-per-hour breeze blowing in the same direction a person coughs increases the virus’s ability to spread by 20%. This implies that the recommended social distance should go from six to just over seven feet to avoid contagion.

The authors of the research, published in Physics of Fluids, found that the wind can catch the droplets contaminated with the virus emitted by a sick person who coughs and spread them in their movement, rather than dropping them to the ground, so the pathogen could spread even outdoors.

«In general, the study highlights an increase in the chances of infection even in the presence of a light breeze,» said the professor. Amit agrawal, one of the authors of the research. “The study is significant because it points to increased risk of infection that could cause coughing in the same direction as the wind”, He explained. The researchers believe their findings can apply whether a person coughs or sneezes.

Since it is practically impossible to know if a person who coughs outside has COVID or not, or if he is doing it in the same direction as the wind, the best way to protect yourself is to wear a mask when doing outdoor activities.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) of the United States state that “generally, no need to wear a mask in outdoor settings. In areas with a high number of COVID-19 cases, consider wearing a mask in crowded outdoor settings and for activities with close contact with other people who are not fully vaccinated, ”they suggest.

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