Ledes from the Land of Enchantment

How will COVID-19 affect the New Mexico holiday season?

ALBUQUERQUE, NM (KRQE) – When you meet up with your family over the holidays, you may want to use a humidifier and break open a window. A team of professors from the University of New Mexico studied how COVID-19 spreads in the lungs and examined whether the state’s dry climate affects the spread.

Since the pandemic began, a team from UNM, Arizona State University, and the Berkeley Lab have been building computer models to understand how COVID spreads through the lungs. “Your lungs have a huge surface area and are roughly half the size of a tennis court. If you took all those bifurcating airways and spread them flat, ”said Melanie Moses, professor of computer science and biology at UNM.

“So you can think of it as a prairie fire … when you have a lot of spots that are burning at the same time and they are all growing at the same time … you can have a lot of virus, a lot of lung damage, and … a lot of ability to spread to someone else,” said Moses.

She says this is why we need to control how much virus we have in our lungs. “An important part of fighting the spread is getting the virus out of the air. That means, open windows, fresh air comes in, ”said Moses.

In New Mexico, a humidifier could help – it hints at the state’s recent outbreak, which coincided with much colder places. “With this airborne virus, the ability of the virus to hang in the air for long periods depends on how cold it is and how dry it is. So we’re not super cold, but super dry. This eruption we’re currently witnessing really started in October when we all turned off our sump coolers – that we made the air more humid and also brought in fresh air and turned on our heaters which really dry out the air. Said Moses.

She adds that the study reaffirms the importance of four main methods of getting the pandemic under control – vaccination and booster, wearing masks, purifying the air, and using COVID tests at home. The team’s paper on their study has been accepted for publication and should appear shortly.

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