Researchers study whether coronavirus can transmit through ocean breeze

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SAN DIEGO — Even though local beaches have been closed for over a week, people who are still trying to sneak out onto the sand have researchers at Scripps Institution of Oceanography worried about how transmittable coronavirus might be in the wet ocean breeze.

Pat Abbott, a professor at San Diego State University who has literally written the book on natural disasters, says it’s too early to tell for sure, but the research is something he will be watching closely.

“Of course there is usually a little bit of a breeze there at the beach, and that can help buoy and hold up those water particles and virus,” Abbott said. “Some of the heavier water particles coming out of somebody’s mouth, they will settle relatively soon. But what about the finer ones that aren’t in the bigger water particles? How far do they go, and how long do they stay in the air?”

Abbot says this pandemic is likely to prove to be the most destructive natural occurrence in his lifetime.

Having studied the 1918 Spanish flu, Abbot says our response to the disease hasn’t changed in 100 years. “What did they tell people to do in 1918? They said isolate, quarantine, use disinfectants—in other words, the exact same things we are told to do now; the exact same things we’re doing.”

With health officials caught flat-footed and playing catch-up, Abbott says April will be a very sobering month as the United States continues to battle the virus. During the Spanish flu, several rounds of the virus fell away, only to come storming back months later. “Once we get past this, you can’t say, ‘Game’s over, we won,'” Abbott said. “It’s like a boxing match. Okay, round one is over. Get ready; bell’s going to ring and round two is going to start after that.”

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