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Indoor aerosol science aspects of SARS‐CoV‐2 transmission

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Knowledge about person-to-person transmission of SARS-CoV-2 is reviewed, emphasizing three components: emission of virus-containing particles and drops from infectious persons; transport and fate of such emissions indoors; and inhalation of viral particles by susceptible persons. Emissions are usefully clustered into three groups: small particles (diameter 0.1-5 µm), large particles (5-100 µm), and ballistic drops (>100 µm). Speaking generates particles and drops across the size spectrum. Small particles are removed from indoor air at room scale by ventilation, filtration, and deposition; large particles mainly deposit onto indoor surfaces. Proximate exposure enhancements are associated with large particles with contributions from ballistic drops. Masking and social distancing are effective in mitigating transmission from proximate exposures. At room scale, masking, ventilation, and filtration can contribute to limit exposures. Important information gaps prevent a quantitative reconciliation of the high overall global spread of COVID-19 with known transmission pathways. Available information supports several findings with moderate-to-high confidence: transmission occurs predominantly indoors; inhalation of airborne particles (up to 50 µm in diameter) contributes substantially to viral spread; transmission occurs in near proximity and at room scale; speaking is a major source of airborne SARS-CoV-2 virus; and emissions can occur without strong illness symptoms.

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