A video explaining the transmission and mitigation of COVID-19, produced by Hawaiʻi Emergency Management Agency (HIEMA), features Thomas Lee, an assistant professor of epidemiology in the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa Office of Public Health Studies in the Myron B. Thompson School of Social Work, and lead modeler and forecaster for HIEMA.

Lee described the three types of transmission of COVID-19 and how to best reduce the spread of the virus. The types of transmission are droplets, aerosolized and fomite, which means surface.

“We know that COVID-19 prefers metallic surfaces that are smooth, so anything that’s cloth or has texture to it, it’s less likely to survive,” said Lee. “So droplets and aerosolized are related in that when you cough or sneeze the first six feet projects out, but because it’s within some sort of liquid substance it’s going to fall down because it’s heavier.”

man at a computer
Thomas Lee

In cold and dry climates, like Las Vegas, those droplets will linger in the air longer in comparison to a humid climate like Hawaiʻi, because water in the air will weigh the droplets down causing them to fall to the ground.

However, transmission through droplets and aerosolization can occur with older air-conditioning units that do not bring in fresh air and are continually recycling potentially contaminated air. Lee explains that spending time outdoors while social distancing is safer than staying indoors with an air-conditioning unit that recycles air.

COVID-19 is an envelope virus, which means that it is pretty easy to kill. Even just regular soap and water is such an effective tool,” added Lee. “We can all do our part to reduce the risk of transmission for COVID-19. It starts with wearing a mask, washing your hands and staying home when you’re sick.”