Skip to content

This Simple Trick Could Protect You From Coronavirus During Reopening

Knowing this easy formula can make all the difference.
COVID-19 infection can be summarized by a simple equation

Your diligent hand hygiene, mask wearing, social distancing and avoiding groups and gatherings have become "the new normal" in preventing the spread of COVID-19, as recommended by the CDC. However, according to one expert, there is one aspect of infection that many of us are overlooking: time. 

In a post that has gone viral over the last few weeks, The Risks – Know Them – Avoid Them, Erin Bromage, Ph.D., a comparative immunologist and professor of biology at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, explains that a COVID-19 infection can be summarized by a simple equation: 

"Successful Infection = Exposure to Virus x Time."

Quite simply, the amount of time you spend in a place or environment where the virus is lingering can be a huge determinant on whether or not you will get sick. 

In order to protect yourself, Dr. Bromage encourages asking yourself a few questions before you venture out into the world—especially as social distancing measures are relaxed. The simple trick is to wonder:

How many people are you going to encounter?

How much airflow is there around you?


How long will you be in the environment? 

Dr. Bromage explains that the virus is spread via respiratory droplets released in the air. While there's a very small chance you are going to get infected by a carrier who is simply breathing, your chances increase dramatically via a cough, sneeze, and even singing, as larger levels of viral particles are released into the air. However, even if you are in a space where someone who is infected with COVID-19 is breathing or talking, releasing lower levels of viral particles, the longer you are exposed to the viral particles, your chances of also contacting the virus increase. 

He also discusses a variety of "super-spreader" events that were pinpointed via contact tracing (the practice of locating and contacting individuals who have been in contact or spent time near an infected person.) They took place at meat processing plants, large gatherings and events such as weddings, funerals, religious services, and conferences, and restaurants. "Any environment that is enclosed, with poor air circulation and high density of people, spells trouble," he explains. 

More on News

  • health problem and people concept - indian man rubbing nose over grey background

    This is the #1 Indicator You Have Coronavirus

    It’s not shortness of breath or a dry cough.
  • Woman at grocery store serving prepared food at salad bar

    You'll Never See This In Grocery Stores Again

    It already shut down, and it could stay that way.
  • unhealthy foods

    The Shocking Side Effect of Eating Comfort Food

    Hint: It has to do with the brain.
  • woman outdoor wearing medical face mask, social distancing, sitting on a bench, isolated from other people

    This One Thing Cuts Your Coronavirus Risk in Half, Study Says

  • opening soon

    State-by-State Guide of Restaurant Reopenings

    When businesses are slated to reopen by state.

Again, time comes into play.

"The principle is viral exposure over an extended period of time," Dr. Bromage explains. "In all these cases, people were exposed to the virus in the air for a prolonged period (hours). Even if they were 50 feet away (choir or call center), even a low dose of the virus in the air reaching them, over a sustained period, was enough to cause infection and in some cases, death."

When assessing the risk of infection (via respiration)—whether you are shopping at the grocery store or mall, dining at a restaurant, or over at a friend's house—it all comes down to the equation. He explains, "You need to consider the volume of the air space (very large), the number of people (restricted), how long people are spending in the store (workers — all day; customers — an hour)." 

For a person shopping, this translates to low density, high air volume of the store, and probably a short amount of time. So, as a shopper, your chance of infection is low. However, if you are a store worker, "the extended time they spend in the store provides a greater opportunity to receive the infectious dose and therefore the job becomes more risky."

As for yourself: To get through this pandemic at your healthiest, don't miss these Things You Should Never Do During the Coronavirus Pandemic

She Lost 100 Pounds—And Shows You How!

Registered Dietitian and Nutritionist Ilana Muhlstein lost her weight and kept it off—and in You Can Drop It!, she'll show you how to lose it, too. More than 240,000 clients have chosen her program—and now it’s yours to keep.

Filed Under