BALTIMORE (WJZ) — A new study from the University of Maryland finds COVID variants are actually more airborne.

Researchers wanted to know what role our breathing plays in the spread of this virus.

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“The virus is evolving to get better at airborne spread, it’s getting out into the air better,” said Dr. Donald Milton, one of the researchers who conducted the study at the University of Maryland’s School of Public Health.

The researchers found variants are spreading better among people after testing 49 COVID-infected people.

“People sit with a cone in front of their face that is collecting all of the air coming from around their head,” Dr. Milton explained. The cone is called Gesundheit TWO and it measures how much virus is in their breath.

The test was conducted with people’s masks on and with their masks off. And the results show that those with a variant were breathing out more virus.

“Eighteen times more in the air,” added Dr. Milton.

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Anne Simon was among those tested and said she was shocked at how much COVID was coming out of her. Simon caught COVID while outside at her farm sitting next to someone who was infected.

“We eat outside occasionally together and little did we know one Sunday afternoon, one of us had COVID,” she said.

Within the first few days of getting sick, Dr. Milton tested Simon for the study.

“Without a mask, just breathing normally, talking softly, they were able to measure a substantial amount of COVID on droplets,” said Simon.

Dr. Simon said as the virus gets better at getting into the air, the public needs to be better about keeping it out of the air. While the study revealed that masks cut down the spread of the virus by half, Dr. Milton said with variants becoming more airborne, masks should be worn tighter around the face.

For example, the big difference between a surgical mask and an N-95 is that surgical masks have room around your face for the virus to get in and out, Dr. Milton explained.

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He also recommends opening windows in the house to allow for more ventilation, looking into purchasing air purifiers and being more mindful about the fit of your mask.

Annie Rose Ramos