The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has recently altered its coronavirus guidance, citing spread via airborne particles is possible.
The possibility of airborne transmission, which the World Health Organization previously “did not pay enough attention,” is now part of the CDC’s new coronavirus guideline. The recommendation, which was released on Monday, October 5, now recognizes coronavirus can spread through airborne particles that can remain in the air “for minutes to hours.”
Airborne transmission is possible
The new guideline was backed with published reports wherein people who have the SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19 disease, had infected others who were more than six feet away or shortly after an infected person left an area.
That is, however, “limited and uncommon circumstances.”
“In these instances, transmission occurred in poorly ventilated and enclosed spaces that often involved activities that caused heavier breathing, like singing or exercise,” the agency further elaborated.
The CDC previously announced that coronavirus can spread through tiny, aerosol particles that can linger in the air. But prior to the latest revision, the agency took it down from its website citing it was only a “draft version of proposed changes.”
The CDC finally acknowledges that COVID-19 travels via aerosols, and that 6ft distance doesn't help indoors. This is why I won't perform in comedy clubs that are doing indoor unmasked shows at half-capacity; it's a super-spreader event waiting to happen. https://t.co/EAH5mVKjwR
— Adam Conover (@adamconover) October 5, 2020
Despite the agency recognizing airborne spread as a factor that adds to the spread, CDC still stands on the fact that SARS-CoV-2 spreads primarily through large respiratory droplets that are produced when a person sneezes, coughs, sings, talks, and breathes. And that people mostly get the virus when they are in close contact with someone who has the virus.
“CDC’s recommendations remain the same based on existing science and after a thorough technical review of the guidance,” the agency told.
New guideline is “quite good”
Experts like the epidemiologist and biodefense expert Saskia Popescu have commended CDC’s decision to change the guideline. Per CNBC, she said that “it is quite good” since recognizing the role of airborne transmission “means so much to so many people.”
She said it is known that airborne transmission is not a “primary driver,” but such events still occur. She also added that “there are a lot of factors that go into transmission” and that “you cannot cherry-pick.”
“This is a good reminder that there are environments that are higher risk for airborne transmission and we just need to communicate that,” Popescu explained.
Moreover, Dr. Bill Schaffner from Vanderbilt University said that the new guidance is in line with what science says about airborne transmission, per CNBC. And continued to describe the event as a “side-street” kind of spread.
“Some cars do get through on the side street. But the highways of transmission are close in, usually within enclosed spaces and for periods of time longer than 15 minutes with people standing within 3 to 6 feet of each other,” he elaborated.
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