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People walk at the boardwalk in Venice Beach. Photo: Apu Gomes/AFP via Getty Images

A group of 239 scientists in 32 countries is calling for the World Health Organization to revise its recommendations to account for airborne transmission as a significant factor in how the coronavirus spreads, the New York Times reports.

The big picture: The WHO has said the virus mainly spreads via large respiratory droplets that fall to the ground once they've been discharged in coughs and sneezes. But the scientists say evidence shows the virus can spread from smaller particles that linger in air indoors.

Why it matters: If airborne transmission is indeed a significant factor, it would call for major adjustments in efforts to contain the virus, according to the Times.

  • Masks would be needed indoors, even if people are socially distancing.
  • Health care workers may need N95 masks that filter out the smallest droplets as they care for coronavirus patients.
  • Air ventilation systems in public spaces would need powerful new filters.
  • It would likely call for ultraviolet lights to kill viral particles floating indoors.

The other side: Benedetta Allegranzi, the WHO's technical lead on infection control, called the evidence for the coronavirus being airborne unconvincing.

  • “Especially in the last couple of months, we have been stating several times that we consider airborne transmission as possible but certainly not supported by solid or even clear evidence,” she said, per the Times. “There is a strong debate on this.”

Go deeper

Oct 13, 2020 - World

Vaccine initiative now covers almost entire world, but not U.S. or Russia

Data: Gavi, The Vaccine Alliance; Map: Naema Ahmed/Axios

China's entry into the COVAX initiative means the list of non-participants in the global effort to develop and distribute coronavirus vaccines has dwindled down to Belarus, Kazakhstan, Malaysia, Russia, the U.S. and five small island countries or micro-states.

Breaking it down: 183 countries with a combined 93% of the world's population are either eligible for subsidized access or have said they intend to participate, though some have yet to sign formal agreements.

Updated Nov 26, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Vaccines: U.S. to mandate vaccines for anyone who crosses borders starting in January — Shots lagged data by months — The next big bottleneck in the global vaccination effort.
  2. Health: The Thanksgiving bouncers — Axios-Ipsos poll: Thanksgiving roulette — Experts criticize CDC's language on vaccine boosters — America's Thanksgiving gamble.
  3. Politics: Biden administration asks appeals court to reinstate vaccine mandate — Michigan recommends face masks for all residents amid surge.
  4. Education: A COVID strategy backfires at schools — Schools across the U.S. offer vaccine drivesBenefits of in-person school outweigh risks, study finds.
  5. World: EU drug regulator recommends Pfizer COVID vaccine for kids — Italy announces new COVID restrictions for unvaccinated people — European health agency urges expanding booster shot access.
  6. Variant tracker: Where different strains are spreading.
Oct 13, 2020 - Politics & Policy

GOP senator defends Trump by claiming mask mandate would have failed

Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.), one of President Trump's most loyal Senate allies, told "Axios on HBO" it was a sign of "respect" from the president to not push for nationwide face mask adoption.

Why it matters: Face masks are a key part of controlling the spread of coronavirus, and many state and local officials clashed over implementing mask mandates.