“The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now says the coronavirus can be spread through airborne particles that can linger in the air "for minutes or even hours" — even among people who are more than 6 feet apart.
The CDC still says that SARS-COV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, is most frequently spread among people in close contact with one another, through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs, sneezes or talks. But in new guidance published Monday on its website, the agency also acknowledged that under certain circumstances, people have become infected by smaller particles that can linger in the air in enclosed spaces that are poorly ventilated.
"Sometimes the infected person was breathing heavily, for example while singing or exercising," the CDC said. In such cases, the CDC said, there's evidence that the amount of smaller infectious droplets and particles that a contagious person produces "became concentrated enough to spread the virus to other people" – even if they were more than 6 feet away. In some cases, the CDC said, transmission occurred "shortly after the person with COVID-19 had left" the room.
Many experts who study the airborne transmission of viruses have been warning that the coronavirus can spread through the air for months. Last month, many experts cheered when the CDC seemed to address the issue, posting an update that suggested that aerosols – tiny airborne particles expelled from a person's mouth when they speak, sing, sneeze or breathe — might be among the most common ways the coronavirus is spreading. But the agency took down that guidance a few days later, saying it was a draft proposal that was posted to its website in error. The CDC's latest guidance stops short of calling airborne transmission "common."