West Coast
Two unidentified surfers in Imperial Beach, Calif. (Salvador Rivera/Border Report)

CA - California researchers examine how far coronavirus can travel once airborne

A team of researchers from UC San Diego is looking into whether the coronavirus can spread through the air for miles on out.

The possibility is being studied in the Tijuana Estuary and Pacific Ocean in South San Diego. The area is plagued by renegade sewage flows from Mexico that carry tens of millions of gallons of untreated sewage, pushing it north of the border, something that happens almost on a daily basis.

This often forces the closure of many beaches and has been known to make surfers and swimmers sick.

Researchers are trying to figure out what happens to viruses found in sewage — including the novel coronavirus, which causes COVID-19 — once they hit the pounding surf in the ocean.

“The focus in the past has been on pollution going into the ocean and how it affects people who are surfing, swimming, walking on the beach. Anytime you have pollution going into the ocean there’s a chance it’s going to become airborne. Question is, what’s it doing to our health,” said Dr. Kim Prather, UC San Diego’s Distinguished Chair Atmospheric Chemistry.

“A lot of viruses become airborne but not all of them. We’re trying to understand which ones get into the air and eventually get into humans,” she said.

Soon, researchers will begin testing people who live near the beach and in Tijuana to see if their bodies have traces of a virus including COVID-19, Prather said.