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Is it safe to ride in an elevator during the pandemic?

The bottom line is, keep your guard up right now whether you're going up or down on an elevator, or really anywhere for that matter.

PORTLAND, Ore — It's a legitimate question. Those elevators are pretty small.

There's probably not a lot of folks these days eager to jump into a crowded elevator, at least, not without some sort of defense.

Which raises the question, just how safe are elevators when it comes to the coronavirus?

"Elevators are a unique environment," said Dr. Richard Corsi.

Corsi is an internationally recognized expert on indoor air quality at Portland State University.

He explained how our risk of getting the virus really depends on two things.

"Those two things are really important," he said. "The amount that's in the air and the time you're in the environment."

The good news is that for most people, a relatively short elevator ride doesn't pose much of a risk.

"Unless you're standing right next to a person who is infected and they're coughing or their speaking directly at you, in the same direction, and you're looking at them, the risk is probably pretty low," Corsi said.

Dr. Corsi did add that the longer you spend in an elevator, the greater the risk becomes.

He said there are simple ways we can reduce our risk and improve our elevator etiquette.

The first is to limit the number of people that are in an elevator at any given time. Once inside, physically distance ourselves from others. Then, even if it seems strange, we should turn away from people and instead face the elevator's corners or walls.

Also always wear a mask. And, last but not least, don't speak.

"I think that's part of the new elevator etiquette because, outside of coughing, speaking is the main emission mode for particles coming out of an infector's mouth," Corsi said. 

Which is why stairs might not always be the safer option.

You never know who you're going to run into coming down as you're heading up.

The bottom line is, keep your guard up right now whether you're going up or down on an elevator, or really anywhere for that matter.

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