The ’airborne virus scientist’ public health officials turn to to assess dangers from COVID-19 in the air

linsey marr by peter means
Credit: Linsey Marr/Peter Means

[Aerosol scientist Dr. Linsey Marr’s] scientific curiosity and her multidisciplinary background have made her one of the world’s leading scientists on airborne viruses… But the coronavirus pandemic has put her in the spotlight. Public health officials in the United States and with the World Health Organization have called on Dr. Marr for her expertise, and scientists from all over the world have asked her to review their papers. Her lab has focused on testing new materials to solve shortages of personal protective equipment for medical workers. Working with her colleagues and graduate students, Dr. Marr’s lab found that a large stockpile of expired respirator masks were still effective but that 3-D printed masks unfortunately were not.

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“There are not many people who are trained engineers who also study infectious disease,” said [animal virus expert] Dr. X.J. Meng.

Dr. Marr is among a small but vocal group of scientists who are calling for more attention to be given to the airborne route of coronavirus transmission. Although the World Health Organization has been adamant that Covid-19 is not an airborne disease, a large body of evidence suggests people get sick by sharing the same air with an infected person.

Dr. Marr said she personally focuses on a “top four” for lowering risk — social distancing, avoiding crowds, wearing a mask and washing hands.

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