Report: Plastic Barriers Ineffective Against Coronavirus, Possibly Making Spread Worse

Those plastic shields propped up in restaurants, classrooms, and office buildings around the country may be ineffective against the coronavirus and might even possibly be making the spread worse, according to a report from the New York Times.

Though scientists and researchers could not conclusively state whether or not plastic barriers had any impact on the coronavirus, the evidence currently shows that plastic barriers were shown to be disrupters of airflow and ventilation to the point that the virus becomes more transmissible.  The barriers were also shown to give people a false sense of security.

In normal circumstances, air typically replenishes within a room every 15 to 30 minutes, but with plastic barriers, research showed a rupture in the airflow that would “create ‘dead zones’ where viral aerosol particles can build up and become highly concentrated.” From the Times:

There are some situations in which the clear shields might be protective, but it depends on a number of variables. The barriers can stop big droplets ejected during coughs and sneezes from splattering on others, which is why buffets and salad bars often are equipped with transparent sneeze guards above the food.

But COVID spreads largely through unseen aerosol particles. While there is not much real-world research on the impact of transparent barriers and the risk of disease, scientists in the United States and Britain have begun to study the issue, and the findings are not reassuring.

Linsey Marr, professor of civil and environmental engineering at Virginia Tech, said the presence of plastic barriers in classrooms would create aerosol traps that increase viral transmissions.

“If you have a forest of barriers in a classroom, it’s going to interfere with proper ventilation of that room,” said professor Marr. “Everybody’s aerosols are going to be trapped and stuck there and building up, and they will end up spreading beyond your own desk.” – READ MORE