You Shouldn't Be Talking Face-to-Face for More Than This Long, Experts Say

Your risk of contracting coronavirus can skyrocket from a minutes-long conversation.

As lockdowns are lifted, and public places begin to reopen, you may find yourself trying to adjust to the new normal of maintaining six feet of distance and wearing a face mask while catching up with everyone from friends and family to your local cashier or barista. And while it's exciting to see friendly faces again, it's essential to remember that the coronavirus is still a very present threat, especially if you're having close conversations.

Experts are not yet sure what the level of exposure needs to be in order for you to become infected, but estimates have ranged from a few hundred to 1,000 particles of the virus. According to The New York Times, "You might reach the higher estimate after just five minutes of close conversation, given that a person might expel 200 viral particles a minute through speech."

Additionally, when health officials do contact tracing, they seek out people who had spent at least 15 minutes in close contact with the infected person, according to The New York Times. So even a few minutes of catching up could put you in danger.

two people talking with masks on at an office

"Close contacts are those who have had face-to-face contact in any setting with a confirmed or probable case for more than 15 minutes in total over the course of a week," according to the Queensland Government. "For example, having three chats of five minutes each over seven days is considered 15 minutes total contact."

If you maintain six feet of distance during your conversation, that can lower the risk of coronavirus transmission. Aerosol scientist Linsey Marr of Virginia Tech told The Times, "It takes an extended period of close contact with an infected person, or extended time in a poorly ventilated room with an infected person, to have a substantial risk of catching the virus through the air." So put some space between you and the other person while you chat.

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Short encounters—especially outdoors—are considered to be low risk. However, if you often find yourself talking to people while you're out and about, experts advise wearing your mask during any public conversations and keeping your chats under five minutes to be safe. And for more information on COVID-19 and conversations, check out Here's How Long Coronavirus Germs Stay in the Air Just From Talking.

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