Monday, April 6, 2020

L.A. Times: Scientists Concerned over Potential COVID-19 Exposure from Beach Walks and Swimming

Posted By on Mon, Apr 6, 2020 at 12:35 PM

The Los Angeles Times is reporting potential COVID-19 infection risk at California beaches, not just from other people out for walks and surfing, but from the ocean and its spray.

The piece quotes Kim Prather, an atmospheric chemist at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, who "worries SARS-CoV-2 could enter the ocean from sewage spills and outfalls, and then reenter the atmosphere." Prather's concern about beach exposure to the virus, about which scientists are still learning, is not just about swimming in potentially polluted ocean waters, but the particulates and "microscopic pathogens" that could wash into the ocean from rains and be delivered by spray from waves carried on the wind.
She also says, “I wouldn’t go in the water if you paid me $1 million right now.”

click to enlarge A parking lot sign at Trinidad Head. - PHOTO BY JASON MARAK
  • Photo by Jason Marak
  • A parking lot sign at Trinidad Head.

Another scientist, Charles Gerba of the University of Arizona, who's been studying viruses in wastewater, says it's unclear how long COVID-19 can survive in saltwater.

Humboldt local Jennifer Savage, Surfrider's policy manager for California, is also quoted, in the piece, in support of beach closures around the state for the sake of public health, though those changes have been driven by concern over maintaining social distance. While Redwood State and National Parks have closed their parking lots, beaches in Humboldt County remain open with some restrictions for parking. 
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Jennifer Fumiko Cahill

Jennifer Fumiko Cahill

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Jennifer Fumiko Cahill is the arts and features editor of the North Coast Journal.

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