May 8, 2021 - Health

CDC updates guidance on airborne COVID-19

A patron eats lunch in March at Philippe The Original near downtown Los Angeles. Photo: Al Seib/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

The CDC acknowledged Friday that airborne spread of COVID-19 among people more than 6 feet apart "has been repeatedly documented."

Why it matters: This is "a change from the agency’s previous position that most infections were acquired through 'close contact, not airborne transmission,'" the N.Y. Times reports.

The new guidance says airborne transmission is more common when people are close, but:

"These transmission events have involved the presence of an infectious person exhaling virus indoors for an extended time (more than 15 minutes and in some cases hours) leading to virus concentrations in the air space sufficient to transmit infections to people more than 6 feet away, and in some cases to people who have passed through that space soon after the infectious person left."

The bottom line: Aerosol expert Linsey Marr "pointed out that one updated page on the C.D.C. website, entitled 'How Covid-19 Spreads,' says that inhaling the virus when people are far apart is 'uncommon,'" the Times noted.

  • "The statement is 'misleading and potentially harmful,' Dr. Marr said."
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