What's The Risk of Getting COVID-19 Through A Wall

In our series "What's the Risk?" experts weigh in on what risks different scenarios pose of transmitting COVID-19.
Posted at 5:06 PM, Apr 16, 2020

When it comes to getting sick with COVID-19, you might be thinking about this, and we have too. 

Frankie Millington asks: “You share an apartment wall with someone who tests positive or is presumed to be positive for COVID-19. What is the risk?” 

We asked the experts, their take: contracting COVID-19 through apartment unit walls is low-risk. 

“You're probably at greater risk being exposed in the general population to someone you don't know at” said Jason Farley, Infectious Diseases Nurse Practitioner, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. “All versus someone who has been confirmed to be a case because they've been instructed on what to do to help prevent exposure of others.”

Dr. Mary Schmidt is the President of Schmidt and Libby Health Advisory Group. She says “there's a small theoretical risk.” Dr. Schmidt recalls a time when people were tracking SARS spread through hotel room walls. “They have done studies on SARS. And if you recall one of the major issues with SARS in the hotels in China was it was passing from room to room.”

But according to Farley “We have not seen that specifically with this virus. So that's really important to note. So we don't believe at this point that you would be exposed by having a shared ventilation system with your neighbor. So it all depends on the virus. And in this particular case, the virus does not seem to be transmitted in that particular way.”

“Even within a household, if you have someone in your household that gets COVID 19, it doesn't mean everybody in the house is going to get it.” Says Katie Carey, Vice President of Infection Prevention, HCA Continental Division.“It's really kind of just self-isolating that person, you know, maintaining that separation, That separation of keeping them in their own room that would help provide protection.”