CDC backtracks on warning that coronavirus is airborne

 



“Our whole field has been shouting from the rooftops that airborne transmission was happening and that ventilation and filtration were crucial to limiting the spread of the disease,” the authors wrote. “There can be no more denying that this is important, and no more reason for delaying improving the ventilation in our offices, schools and homes. We need the public to heed this guidance in time for winter as we all head back indoors.”

The post from the CDC suggested that the agency believes the virus can hang in the air and spread over an extended distance. But the agency continues to believe larger and heavier droplets that come from coughing or sneezing are the primary means of transmission, said Dr. Jay Butler, the CDC’s deputy director for infectious diseases.

On September 22, Allen co-authored a Washington Post op-ed on the topic with Linsey Marr of Virginia Tech. The article described the scientific evidence that has shown that tiny coronavirus particles can stay aloft for minutes to hours and can travel across rooms on natural air currents, well beyond six feet.

The agency said that a "draft version of proposed changes" was "posted in error" initially. Over the weekend, the website said COVID-19 most commonly spreads between people in close contact with each other. The agency added that the virus is known to spread "through respiratory droplets or small particles, such as those in aerosols, produced when an infected person coughs, sneezes, sings, talks or breathes." Before the updated language was removed on Monday, it stated that, "Airborne viruses, including COVID-19, are among the most contagious and easily spread." "There is growing evidence that droplets and airborne particles can remain suspended in the air and be breathed in by others, and travel distances beyond 6 feet (for example, during choir practice, in restaurants, or in fitness classes)," the page stated over the weekend.

On Friday, the CDC website was updated to say that 6 feet of distance may not be enough to avoid airborne transmission of COVID-19. That guidance was removed on Monday. CDC officials say draft language was posted in error, but the misstep comes at a time when public confidence in the agency is taking a hit due to confusing messaging.

"In general, indoor environments without good ventilation increase this risk." In April, a panel of top scientists penned a letter to the White House which said that research has shown the coronavirus can spread by talking or even just breathing, and not just by sneezing and coughing.

What's next: For months, CDC has stressed that the virus spreads mainly between people in close contact — usually within 6 feet or less. That advice guided response efforts across the country, with businesses, schools and other establishments enforcing social distancing requirements that people stay 6 feet apart.

NPR: CDC Publishes — Then Withdraws — Guidance On Aerosol Spread Of Coronavirus For a few days, researchers who have suspected aerosol transmission for months cheered the update as a long-overdue acknowledgment of accumulating evidence for how the virus transmits, particularly in indoor spaces. Now the page has reverted to what it said before — that the virus spreads between people in close contact through respiratory droplets. The page makes no mention of aerosol transmission. (Wamsley, 9/21)

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