(NPR) — For months, many experts who study the airborne transmission of viruses have been warning that the coronavirus can spread through the air.
Now, the CDC is acknowledging the same thing.
People with COVID-19 can infect others even if they are more than 6 feet apart. In updated guidance, the CDC acknowledges airborne transmission can occur, especially in poorly ventilated spaces.
Many experts who study the airborne transmission of viruses have been warning that the coronavirus can spread through the air for months. Last month, many experts cheered when the CDC seemed to address the issue, posting an update that suggested that aerosols – tiny airborne particles expelled from a person's mouth when they speak, sing, sneeze or breathe — might be among the most common ways the coronavirus is spreading. But the agency took down that guidance a few days later, saying it was a draft proposal that was posted to its website in error. The CDC's latest guidance stops short of calling airborne transmission “common.”
“It's gratifying to see CDC acknowledge that there's a role for airborne transmission with this virus,” said Donald Milton, an aerobiologist at the University of Maryland and coauthor of a letter published in the journal Science on Monday that calls for clearer public health guidance on how the coronavirus spreads through the air. However, the distinction between the CDC and Milton and his cosigners is how often airborne transmission happens.
In addition to improving ventilation indoors, the CDC said people should stay at least 6 feet away from others whenever possible, avoid crowded indoors spaces and – as always – wash their hands regularly.