Updated Sep 21, 2020 - Politics & Policy

CDC says it mistakenly published guidance about COVID-19 spreading through air

Director for Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Robert R. Redfield
CDC Director Robert Redfield. Photo: Anna Moneymaker/Pool/Getty Images

The CDC has removed new guidance that acknowledged airborne transmission of the coronavirus, posting in a note on its website that the guidance was only a draft and had been published in error.

Why it matters: The initial update — which was little noticed until a CNN story was published Sunday — had come months after scientists pushed for the agency to acknowledge the disease was transmissible through the air. The CDC previously said that close person-to-person contact was the bigger concern, and the language has been changed back to erase the warning about airborne transmission.

What they're saying: "A draft version of proposed changes to these recommendations was posted in error to the agency’s official website. CDC is currently updating its recommendations regarding airborne transmission of SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19). Once this process has been completed, the update language will be posted," the website now states.

  • The draft guidance that had posted said airborne transmission is now thought to be the "main way the virus spreads," adding that proper air ventilation is important.
  • "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 six feet (for example, during choir practice, in restaurants, or in fitness classes). In general, indoor environments without good ventilation increase this risk," the agency had written.

Worth noting: The CDC also recently updated its guidance around testing for asymptomatic people after stating in August, against the recommendation of scientists, that asymptomatic people do not need to be tested.

The big picture: A slew of recent reporting suggests deep politicization of the Trump administration's coronavirus response, per Axios' Caitlin Owens.

Editors note: This story has been updated to reflect that the CDC removed new guidance around airborne transmission from its website.

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