The 100 Most Influential People of 2021
Anthony Weate/QUT
September 15, 2021 7:16 AM EDT

When trying to slow the spread of a fast-moving virus, it is essential to know how that virus is spread. In the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, scientists overestimated the potential for contaminated surfaces to spread the virus, and we underestimated how far the aerosol particles that people exhaled could travel and remain infectious. It caused us to badly misjudge the risks in closed spaces where there was poor air circulation. Through the fog of this viral war, some scientists saw clearly. Lidia Morawska stands out among peers for her work in recognizing the importance of aerosol transmission and marshaling the data that would convince the World Health Organization and other authoritative bodies to do the same. She assembled a team of more than 200 scientists and public-health authorities to recognize the role of aerosols in spreading SARS-CoV-2 and change how we measure and lessen our risk of contracting the virus. Her advocacy helped change practices everywhere from schools to workplaces, making these environments safer for more people around the world.

Gottlieb is a former U.S. commissioner of food and drugs

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