2022 Shortlist

Avoiding coronavirus infection in indoor spaces: don’t breathe other people’s air

Country/area: Spain

Organisation: El País

Organisation size: Big

Publication date: 29/03/2021

Credit: Mariano Zafra and Javier Salas


Since October 2019 I lead the Graphic and Storytelling team of El País, in Madrid. During the last four years I worked as a Graphics Reporter for special projects in The Wall Street Journal, in New York, and I started and led the Infographic and Data Visualization Department of Univision News in Miami. Before moving to the United States, I spent fourteen years working at the two most prominent national daily newspapers in Spain: El Mundo and El País.

Project description:

Constant ventilation and permanent control of CO₂ levels are two of the keys to avoiding transmission in closed rooms, as fresh air dilutes the infected particles

Impact reached:

This report was visited by half a million people in its versions in English and Spanish. It is one of the most viewed contents of the El País science department in 2021. The clarity with which it explains the accumulation of infectious aerosols has been valued by scientists from several countries and hundreds of readers and teachers.

Techniques/technologies used:

We use a CO2 meter for hours of measurements in different closed spaces such as cars, elevators and rooms. These data were represented visually through tools such as Excel and Adobe After Effects. 3D models and animations were made in Adobe After Effects

What was the hardest part of this project?

After taking more than 20 CO2 samples from more than a dozen locations, the hardest part was designing an effective visual narrative to show accumulated aerosols and how they dissipate when ventilated.

What can others learn from this project?

To always look in their articles for a point of utility and service journalism. While we report indoor aerosol build-up we also provide helpful information to reduce risks.

Project links: