Assessment of effectiveness of optimum physical distancing phenomena for COVID-19

Physics of Fluids, Volume 33, Issue 5, May 2021. Currently, COVID-19 is a global pandemic that scientists and engineers around the world are aiming to understand further through rigorous testing and observation. This paper aims to provide safe distance recommendations among individuals and minimize the spread of COVID-19, as well as examine the efficacy of face coverings as a tool to slow the spread of respiratory droplets. These studies are conducted using computational fluid dynamics analyses, where the infected person breathes, coughs, and sneezes at various distances and environmental wind conditions and while wearing a face-covering (mask or face shield). In cases where there were no wind conditions, the breathing and coughing simulations display 1–2 m physical distancing to be effective. However, when sneezing was introduced, the physical distancing recommendation of 2 m was deemed not effective; instead, a distance of 2.8 m and greater was found to be more effective in reducing the exposure to respiratory droplets. The evaluation of environmental wind conditions necessitated an increase in physical distancing measures in all cases. The case where breathing was measured with a gentle breeze resulted in a physical distancing recommendation of 1.1 m, while coughing caused a change from the previous recommendation of 2 m to a distance of 4.5 m or greater. Sneezing in the presence of a gentle breeze was deemed to be the most impactful, with a recommendation for physical distancing of 5.8 m or more. It was determined that face coverings can potentially provide protection to an uninfected person in static air conditions. However, the uninfected person's protection can be compromised even in gentle wind conditions.