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Towards defining a safe socializing practice

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“Many common infections can spread by airborne transmission at least in some cases, including but not limited to: measles morbillivirus, chickenpox virus, Mycobacterium tuberculosis, influenza virus, enterovirus, norovirus and less commonly coronavirus adenovirus, and possibly respiratory syncytial virus. Because the drying process often damages the pathogens, the number of diseases that can be spread through an airborne route is limited.” [Wikipedia: Airborne diseases]

The following is drawn from observations and reasoning. Early in the Covid-19 pandemic, the wide-spread occurrences of cases encompassing urban and rural areas around the planet suggest airborne transmission.

Because of natural air currents and the expanse of the atmosphere, a virus in the atmosphere is widely dispersed. The drying process is not the same around the planet at any given time.

Some persons are more susceptible to disease than others. We are each unique with inherent and circumstantial differences. We pursue different life styles. Some communities in which we live are more densely populated than others. Some live in single family dwellings, others, in multi-family dwellings with common space, e.g. corridors, elevators and stair ways. Some use privately owned vehicles, others rely upon mass transportation. Some work and shop in dwellings with voluminous space, others, in limited space. In many of today’s buildings, air is re-circulated using a system of ducts. Some systems take and give air from the top of the space, some from the bottom and some from both. Some dwellings rely upon direct venting to the outside through windows and exhaust/intake fans.

A 6’ safety distance has been identified for between persons. That amounts to a personal space, a circle with a radius of 3’ with a person in the center, of 28.3 sq ft. In a 12’ x 12’ space that contains 144 sq ft, that means that if more than 5 people fill that space concurrently, it represents an unsafe condition. Well, let's risk it and say 6 people to allow for 3 couples to socialize. A typical residential elevator is 3’x4’, 12 sq ft. A typical office elevator is 7’x6’, 42 sq ft.

One exhales water vapor. Water vapor is heavier than dry air. Water vapor hangs low to the ground much like humid air. In a crowd of people, water vapor collects, rising as it evaporates. A crowd of human bodies hinders the evaporation process. Unless there is an adequate flow of air pushing the water vapor, it accumulates. In time, people can be immersed in the fog of water vapor. If viruses are embedded in water vapor, the concentration of the virus increases. If what we inhale contains viruses then what we exhale contains viruses.

There is much over which one has little or no influence or control. How effective is the air re-circulating system in the space that one is in? Are others wearing their masks effectively? What about those who choose not to wear a mask? One must keep in mind that when one is wearing a mask that captures their exhaled water vapor, they inhale it with their next intake of breath.

The objectives of safe socializing are to minimize the amount of virus imbued water vapor in one’s personal space, to limit the density of peoples to enable unrestricted movement of the water vapor and to have an ample flow of air to disburse and evaporate the water vapor. The primary purpose of wearing a mask is to minimize the concentration of water vapor in one’s personal space. Obviously, if one is standing at a distance from others outside, it is less of a problem.

In living in community, one is expected to live independently, self-sufficiently, harmoniously and responsibly, and to do it no harm. Why would one want as a neighbor someone who didn’t?

With respect to pandemics, to be a responsible member of a community and to do it no harm in, one wears a mask when outside in a group or inside a closed space to minimize the concentration of water vapor in their personal space. For those who are irresponsible, all one can do is to avoid them as best that one can. We are known by what we do and how. Who wants to socialize with an irresponsible person in the time of a pandemic? One is known by the company that they keep.