Where Is the Biggest Risk for Getting COVID-19?

Analysis by Dr. Joseph Mercola


  • The authors of one study found evidence the risk of COVID-19 is higher in enclosed environments, such as at home or in transportation vehicles
  • German scientists cultured surfaces in one home where people were infected and did not find any live virus; a follow-up study is planned
  • Only one outbreak is known to have been passed outdoors
  • The benefits of being outside may be related to increased vitamin D production and exposure to fresh air

In the life of scientific evidence and research, the SARS-CoV-2 virus has only been around a relatively short time, less than six months. When the number of infections across the world began to grow rapidly, scientists scrambled to collect data and make conclusions to reduce the spread and improve treatments.
The pandemic has exposed several weaknesses, such as poor preparation with personal protective equipment stockpiles and expired N95 masks, as well as inflexible food distribution processes in the dairy, fish and produce markets.
The pandemic has changed the world, potentially for years to come. White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow indicated that health care providers would be influencing decisions related to reopening the economy. He anticipates after returning to work and school, people may have to submit to routine temperature taking, stay home when sick and undergo widespread testing, continuing:1
“We are aware that things are going to be different. That’s going to be a new feature of American life. And I don’t know how quickly that gets up and going, but it’s going to be very, very important because we obviously want to prevent any recurrences.”
The government has made moves to reduce your right to privacy, as they engage with large data mining companies like Google, Facebook, Microsoft and Amazon to track your movements. Bill Gates took the next step, suggesting digital certificates should be used to record your vaccinations, medical tests and illness.
Yet, scientific evidence hasn’t reached a point to make these types of interventions necessary or potentially useful. It appears that instead of addressing more flexible and responsive solutions, corporations are pouring their time and energy into what serves their specific corporate and financial needs.

SARS-CoV-2 Primarily Spreads in Close Quarters

The SARS-CoV-2 virus triggers COVID-19 infections, and how it is spread continues to be investigated. Experts believe most infections are acquired through respiratory droplets that are released when a person speaks, sneezes or coughs.2
These droplets may land on your face, hands or surrounding surfaces. Experts believe you may become infected by touching a surface where the virus was deposited and then touching your face with that same hand.
In order to develop recommendations that would reasonably protect people, scientists investigated the environments where the virus appeared to spread more rapidly. In one study from the School of Public Health at the University of Hong Kong, scientists found that the rate of infection with COVID-19 rose in interior spaces.3
The researchers tracked the number of infected from case reports gathered by the Municipal Health Commissions in 320 municipalities in China. They did not include the Hubei province where the virus reportedly originated. The data from January 4, 2020, to February 11, 2020, included 318 outbreaks which met the criteria of three or more cases being involved.
In total, there were 1245 confirmed infections in 120 municipalities. Their results support many of the previous estimates that each infected person would spread the virus to two or three others.4 In this study they found 53.8% involved three cases and 26.4% involved four.
What was most interesting was that the highest number of infections were spread in the home (79.9%) followed by a variety of methods of transportation (34%), including planes, trains, cars and buses.
Only one outbreak of cases — an infection passed from one individual to at least three others — was identified from exposure in an outdoor environment. The researchers wrote this “confirms that sharing indoor space is a major SARS-CoV-2 infection risk.”

Germany Hasn’t Identified One Transmission From Surfaces

German scientists are also searching for answers about how the SARS-CoV-2 is spread. Leading German scientist Hendrik Streeck, professor and director of the Institute of Virology at the University Hospital in Bonnhas, is looking for more answers. He told a reporter from the Daily Mail5 that the virus may have a different spread pattern than originally believed.
Streeck cultured the home of one family in the district of Heinsberg, a region with 250,000 people and a high number of infected individuals (this is not the city of Heinsberg, which has less than 41,000 citizens). While there were sick people in the home, the scientists didn’t find “any live virus on any surface.” He will now oversee a team of 40 researchers in Heinsberg seeking more information from multiple homes.
The area was estimated to have more than 1,300 confirmed cases and 37 deaths by April 2, 2020. Yet, in the first home that was tested, he didn’t find the virus, even on doorknobs or animal fur. Streeck commented:6
“We know it’s not a smear infection that is transmitted by touching objects, but that close dancing and exuberant celebrations have led to infections.”
The unique study planned for Heinsberg will essentially make the city population a life-sized laboratory for the virus. Streeck was encouraged by the anticipated data, telling parliamentarians:7
“This is a big chance for the whole of Germany. We’ll be gathering information and practical tips as to how to deal with Covid-19 and how we can achieve further containment of it, without our lives having to come to a standstill over a period of years.
If there are ways of preventing the illness from spreading in our environment, we want to know what they are, with the goal of finding out how we can freely move about in the environment together.
On the basis of our findings we’ll be able to make recommendations, which politicians can use to guide their decision-making. It could be that the measures currently in place are fine, and we say: ‘Don’t reduce them.’ But I don’t expect that, I expect the opposite, that we will be able to come up with a range of proposals as to how the curfews can be reduced.”
The hope is that by having a better understanding of how the virus is spread, it could help reduce infections worldwide. Germany has also begun testing for other countries. Samples tested by Public Health England are taking four days to process, as compared to two days in Germany. As the Daily Mail reports:8
“It was also revealed today that hundreds of NHS workers’ coronavirus swabs have reportedly been flown to Germany because the results are coming back in half the time.”

Deaths From Spanish Flu Pandemic Reduced by Fresh Air

Long before antibiotics were discovered and widely used, the ocean air was thought of as a cure. It appeared to improve illnesses without drugs or side effects. Dr. Thomas Ferkol, pediatric pulmonologist, spoke with a Wall Street Journal reporter and said there are ample amounts of anecdotal evidence that children with cystic fibrosis respond well to the ocean air.9
This knowledge prompted a study in which researchers evaluated the effects of inhaled hypertonic saline solution over 48 weeks. The results added another tactic in the treatment of cystic fibrosis, as doctors now routinely prescribe 7% sodium chloride nebulizer solution.
Of the last three influenza pandemics — 1918, 1957 and 1968 — it was the H1N1 pandemic in 1918-1919 that claimed the most lives.10 It was originally estimated that the flu killed 21 million worldwide, many of which occurred from secondary bacterial infections.
However, more recent algorithms suggest the number was likely between 50 million and 100 million. The fatality rate was near that of other flu infections, between 1% and 3%.
The idea of getting plenty of fresh air and sunlight began during this pandemic. William Brooks, then Surgeon General of the Massachusetts State Guard, wrote an article in the American Journal of Public Health, detailing the results they experienced after treating flu patients in an outdoor hospital.11
When hospitals were overwhelmed with patients, a tent hospital was set up on Corey Hill for sailors on the Navy ships docked in Boston harbor. While taking histories from incoming patients doctors realized those with the worst infections were from areas of ships with the worst ventilation.

Cross Ventilation and Air Flow May Be One Key at Home

In an effort to help the patients, they were taken outside their tent on pleasant days. The Surgeon General wrote the results on the first day were startling:12
“The charts of these patients are very instructive and clearly demonstrate the great value of plenty of air and sunshine for patients suffering from influenza and pneumonia.”
At the end of four weeks the tent hospital was closed as the worst was over for those on the Navy ships. During that time, 351 of the most seriously ill were sent to the tent hospital, yet only 35 died, a far lower number than expected considering how seriously ill they were. Brooks concluded,13 “The efficacy of open air treatment has been absolutely proven, and one has only to try it to discover its value.”
Richard Hobday, Ph.D., is a strong proponent of the benefits of fresh air and sunshine.14 He continues to educate and inform people that many have experienced benefits without side effects common to drugs and vaccines.15 Those who were treated outside were less likely to be exposed to other infectious bacteria found in hospital areas, a current concern for hospitalized patients.16
At the time, researchers theorized that creating cross ventilation in hospitals may have the same effect. However, it was during this time that antibiotics were introduced and starting to become more common. This movement replaced the idea of investigating the effects of open-air treatment.
There is emerging information that most are infected with SARS-CoV-2 in enclosed spaces, such as at home, and the potential the virus is not spread through contact with inanimate objects. Therefore, opening your windows to create cross ventilation, especially if someone is ill, may help reduce the spread.

The Sea and Pulmonary Infections

As Ferkol explained to The Wall Street Journal reporter, the sea air helped improve the health of patients with cystic fibrosis. There are several explanations which have yet to be investigated.
To be clear, none of the research on open air treatments or ocean air for children with cystic fibrosis mentioned or considered the effect of grounding. Yet, it may be an idea worth considering. Simply placing your bare feet on the ground helps reduce free radicals in your body, which in turn reduces chronic inflammation.
The effects of negative air ions were discovered 100 years ago; their effect on health and wellness is still under study.17 Interestingly, there are more negative air ions near the ocean than are found in other geographical areas.
Exposure to the sun boosts the production of vitamin D, which is especially helpful for those who spend a great deal of time indoors. Boosting your vitamin D levels with supplements will help support your immune system. However, the only way to know if you need supplementation is to test your vitamin D levels.
Evidence from the 1918 flu pandemic suggests that sun exposure may also reduce symptoms, along with the severity and length of a viral illness.18 As detailed in “Vitamin D Prevents Infections,” research shows that high-dose vitamin D supplementation lowers the risk of acquiring respiratory illnesses and lung infections in the elderly. As noted by one researcher in the study:19
“After studying these patients for a year, we found a 40 percent reduction in acute respiratory illness among those who took higher doses of vitamin D. Vitamin D can improve the immune system’s ability to fight infections because it bolsters the first line of defense of the immune system.”