The #1 Worst Thing You Shouldn't Do in an Elevator

If you can, take the stairs. If you can't? Don't speak!

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With the exception of a public restroom, perhaps no single public space right now seems more terrifying than an elevator. After all, it's essentially a confined box where social distancing is impossible, where poor ventilation is the norm, and where you're all but guaranteed to find it filled with strangers. (As we're all well aware, the virus is most contagious at close quarters—and indoors—where it is transmitted from person to person.) However, if you absolutely must ride an elevator, there's at least one responsible thing you should always remember to do: keep your mouth shut at all costs.

"That needs to be part of new etiquette," Richard Corsi, M.S., Ph.D., the dean of Portland State University's Maseeh College of Engineering and Computer Science, told The New York Times. "They should put big signs on the elevator: Do Not Speak."

Little did he know that that may actually come to pass. In the same article, Nancy Burton Clark, an employee at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, also urged elevator riders to keep silent—and cited a list of forthcoming new guidelines from the CDC for buildings that contain elevators and escalators and for those who use them. The recommendations will include the addition signs that instruct riders "not to talk unless you have to."

Corsi (a "specialist in indoor air quality," according to the Science Times) has become something of an elevator health guru ever since he created a model using engineering principles and fluid mechanics for determining how dangerous they are in the era of coronavirus.

Corsi sought out to discover exactly how much COVID-19 would remain in the air of an elevator if "an infected person [wearing a mask] rode 10 floors, coughed once and talked on a smartphone," described The NY Times. Evidently, a quarter of the aerosolized particles would still be present in the air when the elevator returned back to the ground floor. If the person wasn't wearing a mask, it would be up to "1,000 times more particles per liter of air," Corsi said.

Though the greatest risk of contracting the coronavirus is indeed person-to-person through the air, there are other risks present, as well. According to research conducted by the University of Toronto, in 2014, the number of bacteria present on an elevator button is 1.5 times higher than what's found on a public toilet seat.

We've know for some time that crowding into an elevator isn't the best idea, and the New York City Department of Health recently advised that we should all "limit the number of people getting into the elevator at the same time to avoid crowding. People should consider only riding the elevator with their own party, taking the stairs, or waiting for the next elevator." But remember: if you step foot on one—no matter how crowded it is—keep your lips zipped.

"The good news is: If you don't like small talk in the elevator, those days are over," Jonathan Woloshin, head of U.S. real estate at UBS Global Wealth Management, told The NY Times in the same article. And for more great health advice you can use right now, don't miss the 10 Health Risks You Can't Afford to Take Amid the Coronavirus.

Best Life is constantly monitoring the latest news as it relates to COVID-19 in order to keep you healthy, safe, and informed. Here are the answers to your most burning questions, the ways you can stay safe and healthy, the facts you need to know, the risks you should avoid, the myths you need to ignore,and the symptoms to be aware of. Click here for all of our COVID-19 coverage, and sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.
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