CDC: Coronavirus Can Spread Through Airborne Transmission After All

Radoslav Zilinsky/Getty

On Monday, the CDC revised its coronavirus guidance to reflect the possibility of airborne transmission

Two weeks ago, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) dropped a surprising update to its coronavirus guidance. At the time, a section appeared — and then quickly disappeared — which suggested the virus could be transmitted via airborne particles. Some speculated that the update was taken down due to presidential pressure. But whatever the reason, it must not be an issue anymore. On Monday, the CDC officially revised its guidance to include a section on airborne transmission.

On the organization’s “How It Spreads” page, a new section has been added. It starts with a simple, yet declarative statement: COVID-19 can sometimes be spread by airborne transmission.

The passage goes on to describe this type of transmission. “Some infections can be spread by exposure to virus in small droplets and particles that can linger in the air for minutes to hours. These viruses may be able to infect people who are further than 6 feet away from the person who is infected or after that person has left the space,” it states.

“There is evidence that under certain conditions, people with COVID-19 seem to have infected others who were more than 6 feet away,” the newly revised page continues. “These transmissions occurred within enclosed spaces that had inadequate ventilation. Sometimes the infected person was breathing heavily, for example while singing or exercising.”

In those instances, says the CDC, scientists speculate that the number of infectious droplets and particles produced by the persons with COVID-19 became concentrated enough to spread the virus. To bolster these findings, the CDC cites published reports that describe “limited, uncommon” documented incidences of infected people passing the virus to someone more than six feet away or who entered an area after the infected person had already left.

The CDC stresses that it is far more common for COVID-19 to spread through close interpersonal contact than by airborne transmission. People who are in close proximity, or within six feet, of an infected person have a greater risk of infection.

Now that we know the virus can be passed through airborne particles, what should we do? According to the CDC, stay the course. Yes, the virus can be spread even with proper social distancing. However, the agency emphasizes that our best bet at minimizing transmission is to keep doing what we’ve been doing.

So, you know the drill: stay at least six feet away from others, wear a face mask, wash your hands, disinfect surfaces on the reg, and avoiding large gatherings.