The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is now publicly acknowledging people can be infected with the coronavirus through airborne transmission, especially in enclosed spaces with inadequate ventilation.
The update embraces growing evidence and international research showing the coronavirus can linger in the air longer - for minutes and hours - and travel farther than six feet.
The update comes two weeks after the official CDC website was updated to reflect this, only to be removed a few days later with the agency saying it was “posted in error” before it was fully reviewed.
The draft language seemed to imply aerosol or airborne transmission was the main way the coronavirus spreads, and the CDC says that is not the case.
“Infections occur mainly through exposure to respiratory droplets when a person is in close contact with someone who has COVID-19,” the CDC states.
Their added section is titled “COVID-19 can sometimes be spread by airborne transmission,” and includes information about smaller particles lingering in the air after an infected person had left the space.
"Some infections can be spread by exposure to virus in small droplets and particles that can linger in the air for minutes to hours," it reads.
“There is evidence that under certain conditions, people with COVID-19 seem to have infected others who were more than 6 feet away. These transmissions occurred within enclosed spaces that had inadequate ventilation. Sometimes the infected person was breathing heavily, for example while singing or exercising,” the new section on the CDC’s website reads. “These transmissions occurred within enclosed spaces that had inadequate ventilation.”
The World Health Organization changed their guidance in July and noted the prevalence of airborne transmission of coronavirus and particles lingering in the air. Hundreds of scientists encouraged the WHO to make the acknowledgement following research and studies.
Meanwhile, medical experts remind people to wear masks, social distance and wash their hands.
"That mask has proven time and time again to be effective as COVID is found to be transmitted by airborne droplets it’s even more reason to be able to wear a mask. So masks are probably the most important thing if you follow those you’re risk probably goes down significantly," said Dr. Nishant Anand, the executive Vice President and chief medical officers for Baycare Health System.
Dr. Anand said when you're within six feet of someone, inside or outside, he recommends wearing a mask.
"The recent events that have happened over the last couple weeks are just a reminder that COVID has not gone away and I know we’re all tired of hearing about that message but we just need to be vigilant and safe," he said.
Dr. Anand also added generally they recommend people who are symptomatic be tested and if someone is concerned about an exposure to consult with a medical professional to decide the best time to get tested, and quarantine for 14 days.