Running outside during the coronavirus pandemic: Is it OK?

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As more research suggests the possibility that the novel coronavirus may have the potential to become airborne, some are questioning whether going for walks or runs outside amid the pandemic can still be considered safe.

“Our understanding of coronavirus transmission is incomplete and rapidly evolving,” Dr. Linda Anegawa, an internist with virtual health platform, PlushCare, told Fox News.

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Citing observations from neurosurgeons and ear-nose-throat physicians in China, Italy and Iran, as well as an article published recently in the New England Journal of Medicine, Anegawa said that there “is reason to believe that the virus causing COVID-19 may linger in microdroplets in the air.”

However, Anegawa said the likelihood of contracting the virus this way as opposed to having direct contact with an infected person would depend on the duration of exposure and viral load.

“As long as social distancing is maintained (more than six feet apart from others), going out for runs and walking is probably still safe,” Anegawa said. “The likelihood of becoming infected with a virus depends on the duration of exposure plus the viral load, meaning the amount of virus the body is exposed to. This is likely the reason why health care workers are felt to have the most severe infections with COVID-19 – they have high levels of daily viral exposure.”

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But for the average person, Anegawa said, the rapid dispersion of respiratory droplets bound to occur while outdoors means that even if they were exposed, it would likely be too small of an amount to cause an infection.

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“Having said this, if you go out with children, I would recommend that they not play with other neighborhood children,” she said.

Health officials have long stated that the majority of COVID-19 patients will be symptomatic, which has also raised concern among some about tobacco users and whether the smoke they are exhaling is contaminated with the virus and then spreading the virus to others.

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“There is the possibility that exhaled air from anyone who is infected with COVID-19 (smoker or non-smoker) could contain droplets with live virus,” Anegawa said. “As an aside, smoking dramatically increases your complication risk should you become infected with COVID-19. I’ve had many visits recently from patients who do smoke requesting assistance with quitting because of the pandemic, which is really fantastic.”