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Updated CDC guidance acknowledges coronavirus can spread through the air

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated guidance on its website to say coronavirus can commonly spread "through respiratory droplets or sma...

Posted: Sep 20, 2020 8:13 PM
Updated: Sep 20, 2020 10:15 PM

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated guidance on its website to say coronavirus can commonly spread 'through respiratory droplets or small particles, such as those in aerosols,' which are produced even when a person breathes.

'Airborne viruses, including COVID-19, are among the most contagious and easily spread,' the site now says.

Previously, the CDC page said that Covid-19 was thought to spread mainly between people in close contact -- about 6 feet -- and 'through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs, sneezes or talks.'

The page, updated Friday, still says Covid-19 most commonly spreads between people who are in close contact with one another, and now says 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.'

These particles can cause infection when 'inhaled into the nose, mouth, airways, and lungs,' it says. 'This is thought to be the main way the virus spreads.'

'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 now says. 'In general, indoor environments without good ventilation increase this risk.'

The CDC also added new measures to its information about protecting yourself and others.

Previously, CDC suggested maintaining 'good social distance' of about 6 feet, washing hands, routinely cleaning and disinfecting surfaces and covering your mouth and nose with a mask when around others.

Now, it says 'stay at least 6 feet away from others, whenever possible,' and continues to direct people to wear a mask and routinely clean and disinfect. However, it also now says people should stay home and isolate when sick, and 'use air purifiers to help reduce airborne germs in indoor spaces.'

Masks, it notes, should not replace other prevention measures.

The update also changed language around asymptomatic transmission, shifting from saying 'some people without symptoms may be able to spread the virus' to saying 'people who are infected but do not show symptoms can spread the virus to others.'

Scientists pushed for acknowledgment of airborne transmission

For months, scientists have noted the likelihood of coronavirus transmission through viral particles in the air, and pushed health agencies to acknowledge it.

In April, a prestigious scientific panel told the White House in a letter that research showed coronavirus can be spread not just by sneezes or coughs, but also just by talking, or possibly even just breathing.

'While the current [coronavirus] specific research is limited, the results of available studies are consistent with aerosolization of virus from normal breathing,' according to the letter, written by Dr. Harvey Fineberg, former dean of the Harvard School of Public Health and chair of the NAS' Standing Committee on Emerging Infectious Diseases and 21st Century Health Threats.

'Currently available research supports the possibility that [coronavirus] could be spread via bioaerosols generated directly by patients' exhalation,' the letter said.

And in July, 239 scientists published a letter that urged the World Health Organization and other public health organizations to be more forthcoming about the likelihood that people could catch the virus from droplets that were floating in the air.

'The current guidance from numerous international and national bodies focuses on hand washing, maintaining social distancing, and droplet precautions,' scientists wrote in the letter, published in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases.

'Most public health organizations, including the World Health Organization, do not recognize airborne transmission except for aerosol-generating procedures performed in healthcare settings. Hand washing and social distancing are appropriate, but in our view, insufficient to provide protection from virus-carrying respiratory microdroplets released into the air by infected people,' they added.

After the letter published, WHO released a report that detailed how the coronavirus can pass from one person to another, including through the air during certain medical procedures and possibly the air in crowded indoor spaces.

On Sunday, one of the lead authors of the letter, Donald Milton, a professor of environmental health at the University of Maryland who studies how viruses are transmitted, said the CDC's new language was a 'major improvement.'

'I'm very encouraged to see that the CDC is paying attention and moving with the science. The evidence is accumulating,' Milton wrote in an email to CNN.

He described a pre-print paper released in August -- in which scientists described culturing viable virus from air in a hospital -- as 'an important addition to the reports of large outbreaks that were clearly a result of transmission by aerosols that travel more than 6 feet.'

'It is time for WHO to acknowledge these advancements in the science,' Milton said.

Minnesota Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 142311

Reported Deaths: 2472
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hennepin35484995
Ramsey14726372
Dakota10271139
Anoka9344155
Washington636273
Stearns625550
Scott360436
Olmsted340230
St. Louis325874
Wright273116
Clay252944
Nobles234318
Blue Earth21147
Carver18887
Sherburne183122
Kandiyohi18215
Rice170210
Mower154518
Winona133619
Chisago11562
Crow Wing114322
Benton103311
Lyon10306
Beltrami9618
Otter Tail9508
Waseca94510
Todd8967
Polk8364
Morrison8259
Steele8013
Itasca78817
Douglas7744
Nicollet77118
Freeborn7185
Le Sueur6646
Goodhue65111
Martin62618
Becker6214
McLeod6214
Isanti5995
Watonwan5824
Pine5770
Carlton5092
Chippewa4733
Mille Lacs44918
Hubbard4344
Cass4225
Wabasha4141
Dodge4130
Pipestone36617
Meeker3593
Rock3595
Brown3483
Roseau3300
Redwood29912
Yellow Medicine2986
Murray2973
Cottonwood2950
Fillmore2770
Renville27213
Sibley2663
Wadena2643
Faribault2520
Houston2381
Unassigned23853
Kanabec23710
Swift2252
Jackson2211
Pennington2181
Aitkin1982
Stevens1941
Lincoln1930
Koochiching1755
Pope1680
Big Stone1591
Marshall1511
Lac qui Parle1453
Wilkin1454
Clearwater1381
Norman1340
Lake1330
Mahnomen1292
Grant1054
Red Lake822
Traverse590
Kittson530
Lake of the Woods441
Cook190

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 122218

Reported Deaths: 1691
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Polk19732289
Woodbury743799
Linn6038133
Johnson602431
Black Hawk5974102
Dubuque550658
Scott487343
Story411118
Dallas357347
Pottawattamie337845
Sioux254417
Buena Vista230212
Marshall212236
Webster196015
Plymouth172831
Wapello158962
Clinton156228
Muscatine153958
Des Moines151611
Cerro Gordo150227
Crawford138714
Warren13137
Carroll120413
Jasper119734
Henry11245
Marion106811
Lee101312
Tama100538
Delaware82713
Dickinson7939
Wright7591
Boone7509
Mahaska73824
Bremer7199
Harrison69716
Washington69311
Jackson6853
Benton6482
Lyon5688
Clay5574
Louisa54415
Winnebago52119
Cedar5087
Winneshiek5079
Hardin5017
Jones5004
Kossuth4970
Clayton4923
Buchanan4875
Hamilton4825
Poweshiek47611
Floyd46211
Emmet45321
Iowa4429
Cass4233
Mills4233
Guthrie42015
Page4200
Cherokee4122
Sac4114
Butler4083
Fayette4064
Shelby4022
Allamakee3999
Franklin39518
Madison3743
Chickasaw3731
Hancock3676
Humboldt3593
Clarke3573
Grundy3406
Palo Alto3292
Calhoun3264
Osceola3020
Mitchell2961
Howard2879
Monroe27212
Union2645
Taylor2602
Jefferson2591
Appanoose2503
Monona2492
Pocahontas2442
Fremont2152
Lucas2136
Ida2122
Adair1971
Greene1930
Montgomery1907
Davis1884
Van Buren1882
Keokuk1731
Decatur1620
Audubon1601
Worth1470
Wayne1373
Ringgold992
Adams841
Unassigned60
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