CDC officially updates guidelines to acknowledge airborne coronavirus transmission

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WASHINGTON (NEXSTAR) — The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has officially revised its guidance on the coronavirus to include information about how the virus can spread through airborne particles that can “linger in the air for minutes to hours” and among people who are more than six feet apart.

The new guidance says coronavirus can “sometimes be spread by airborne 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,” the CDC said on Monday. “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.”

The public health agency also said there is evidence people with COVID-19 “under certain conditions” can infect people who are more than 6 feet away.

“These transmissions occurred within enclosed spaces that had inadequate ventilation,” the CDC said. “Sometimes the infected person was breathing heavily, for example while singing or exercising.”

The agency continues to believe larger and heavier droplets that come from coughing or sneezing are the primary means of transmission.

“Available data indicate that it is much more common for the virus that causes COVID-19 to spread through close contact with a person who has COVID-19 than through airborne transmission,” the agency said.

The update comes after the CDC published and then removed similar guidance last month that was published in error. That information closely mirrored the official update to the CDC website on Monday.

In past interviews, CDC officials have acknowledged growing evidence that the virus can sometimes be transmitted on even smaller, aerosolized particles or droplets that spread over a wider area. Certain case clusters have been tied to events in which the virus appeared to have spread through the air in, for example, a choir practice.

Public health experts urge people to wear masks, which can stop or reduce contact with both larger droplets and aerosolized particles.

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