Infection risk of SARS-CoV-2 in a dining setting: Deposited droplets and aerosols

Build Environ. 2022 Apr 1;213:108888. doi: 10.1016/j.buildenv.2022.108888. Epub 2022 Feb 10.


Considering that safe-distancing and mask-wearing measures are not strictly enforced in dining settings in the context of SARS-CoV-2, the infection risks of patrons in a dining outlet (e.g., a cafe) is assessed in this study. The size-resolved aerosol emission rate (AER) and droplets deposition rate (DDR) on dining plates from speaking were obtained through chamber measurements and droplet deposition visualization via fluorescent imaging technique (FIT), respectively. The AER from speaking was 24698 #/min in the size range of 0.3-5.5 μm, while the DDR was 365 #/min in the size range of 43-2847 μm. Furthermore, an infection risk model was adopted and revised to evaluate the infection risk of 120 diners for a "3-h event" in the cafe. In a four-person dining setting around a rectangular table, a diner seated diagonally across an infected person posed the least infection risk due to the deposited droplets on dining plates. The deposited droplets on a dining plate were dominant in possible viral transmission as compared to the long-range airborne route when a diner shared a table with the infected person. Yet, long-range airborne transmission had the potential to infect other diners in the cafe, even resulting in super-spreading events. A fresh air supply of 12.1-17.0 L/s per person is recommended for the cafe to serve 4-20 diners concurrently to minimize infection risks due to aerosols. Current ventilation standards (e.g., 8-10 L/s per person) for a cafe are not enough to avoid the airborne transmission of SARS-CoV-2.

Keywords: Aerosols; Airborne transmission; COVID-19; Droplets; Infection risk.