Virus expert implores surfers to stay out of ocean to avoid coronavirus

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An atmospheric scientist at UC San Diego studying how viruses and bacteria are ejected from the ocean pleaded with surfers Monday to stay out of the water to minimize chances of contracting coronavirus, a report said.

The scientist, Kim Prather, also urged people bicycling or walking along the coast to follow the same rules, the San Diego Union-Tribune reported.

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Prather explained surfers feel they are safe if they follow social distancing rules of six feet of separation  - but that is only true if the air isn’t moving, the newspaper reported.

“Most of the time, there’s wind or a breeze at the coast. Tiny drops of virus can float in the air and get blown around.” 

— Kim Prather, University of California’s Scripps Insitution of Oceanography atmospheric scientist

“Surfers are saying that they’re safe if they stay 6 feet away from other people, but that’s only true if the air isn’t moving,” said Prather, who works at UCSD’s Scripps Institution of Oceanography. “Most of the time, there’s wind or a breeze at the coast. Tiny drops of virus can float in the air and get blown around.”

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She said trying to avoid an airborne virus was similar to trying to avoid second-hand smoke from a cigarette — particularly if you are downwind.

“If you don’t care about your own life, that’s one thing. But this can be a matter of life or death to other people. I’m really worried because the coronavirus is so contagious,” added Prather, a specialist in viruses and bacteria that arise in the surf zone.

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While authorities have closed most San Diego County beaches and beach parking lots, Oceanside has a “soft” closure, which means that the beach is open to walkers and runners, the Union-Tribune reported. The beach-side parking lots are closed. The same rules apply at Coronado.