CDC Acknowledges Coronavirus Can Spread Through Airborne Particles

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( After a back-and-forth over the last few weeks, the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention acknowledged Monday that the coronavirus can indeed spread through airborne particles.

The CDC said these particles can linger in the air “for minutes or even hours,” and can even spread to people who are distanced more than 6 feet apart from each other.

The most common way that COVID-19 is spread is through close contact of people. When an infected person talks, sneezes or coughs, the respiratory droplets that are produced are what infects another person they are in close contact with.

Under some circumstances, though, smaller particles that linger have infected people. This most commonly occurs for air in enclosed indoor spaces that don’t have great ventilation.

As the CDC wrote on its website on Monday:

“Sometimes, the infected person was breathing heavily, for example while singing or exercising.”

When this happens, the smaller particles and droplets produced by someone who’s contagious “become concentrated enough to spread the virus to other people.” Sometimes, transmission of the virus occurs “shortly after the person with COVID-19 had left” the room they were in.

For months, many medical experts have warned that the coronavirus can spread through airborne particles. In September, the CDC addressed and confirmed that when they posted an update on their website. A few days afterward, though, they removed that guidance from the website, saying it was posted in error.

This latest CDC update has made many in the medical community very happy. One of those people is Donald Milton, who is a University of Maryland aerobiologist. He wrote a letter in the journal “Science” calling for clearer public health guidance on the ways in which coronavirus spreads.

Milton wrote:

“It’s gratifying to see CDC acknowledge that there’s a role for airborne transmission with this virus.”

Milton went as far as telling reporters on Monday that he and the co-signers of his letter believe airborne transmission is the most dominant form of COVID-19 transmission — for people in close contact as well as far apart.

As Virginia Tech professor of engineering Linsey Marr said:

“Airborne transmission happens by inhalation of virus that’s in the air. And this is happening even more frequently when people are close to each other.”

The two professors say that what this means is that people should be wearing a mask anytime they are indoors with people who don’t live in their household — even if they’re able to remain more than six feet away. A plexiglass barrier isn’t even a good enough protection in these situations, they say.

As for outdoors, wearing a mask is a good idea if you can’t remain more than six feet apart from people who don’t live in your household. The better ventilation outdoors helps the aerosols dissipate into the air and not linger around where they can infect people at a later time.

“Ventilation really is just so important,” according to Kimberly Prather, the lead author of the letter who is an atmospheric chemist at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography.