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Here’s the latest:
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Monday officially recognized that coronavirus can sometimes be spread through airborne transmission, only two weeks after similar guidance was published on its website and then suddenly removed.
Airborne transmission refers to tiny infectious particles that can linger in the air for minutes to hours.
“There is evidence that under certain conditions, people with COVID-19 seem to have infected others who were more than 6 feet away,” the CDC wrote on its website page about how coronavirus is spread. “These transmissions occurred within enclosed spaces that had inadequate ventilation. Sometimes the infected person was breathing heavily, for example while singing or exercising.”
Notably, the new language was not as strong as the previous advisory the agency had briefly put on its website last month. In that update, the CDC had written that aerosol or airborne transmission “is thought to be the main way the virus spreads.” Officials later said that the guidance had been a draft version posted in error.
The agency is still emphasizing that most infections occur through close and prolonged contact with a person with COVID-19. The stance is similar to that of the World Health Organization, which has also recognized airborne transmission but stopped short of saying that aerosols or airborne virus particles are a primary mode of spread. It has instead said that that aerosol transmission “cannot be ruled out.”
Still, the CDC’s statement on the role of airborne transmission comes at a critical point in the pandemic. Seasonal temperature drops will increasingly force Americans to spend more time indoors, and some schools around the country, including in New York City, have reopened for in-person instruction. Limited indoor dining in the city began last week.
The guidance also hits close to the White House and President Donald Trump, a skeptic of the virus and the importance of face masks, who on Monday evening left Walter Reed National Military Medical Center after getting treated for coronavirus. More than a dozen of the president’s close associates have also tested positive for the virus. In a possible example of airborne transmission, experts have pointed to a White House event celebrating Judge Amy Coney Barrett’s nomination to the Supreme Court that had unmasked people in close contact both indoors and outdoors.
“Avoid crowded indoor spaces and ensure indoor spaces are properly ventilated by bringing in outdoor air as much as possible. In general, being outdoors and in spaces with good ventilation reduces the risk of exposure to infectious respiratory droplets,” the CDC now advises the public.