The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) updated its coronavirus guidelines which now acknowledges what the public health experts were saying for months that the virus is capable of spreading via airborne particles. According to CDC updated guidelines the airborne particles can stay in the air for hours and can also infect people who are at a distance of more than 6ft.
The CDC updated guidelines say that airborne transmission is very rare but is still possible. However, the agency admitted that the more common way in which the virus can spread is through large respiratory droplets, which is released when an infected person sneezes, talks, coughs, breaths, or sings.
Aerosols containing the virus can stay airborne for seconds to hours, they can also travel for a distance of more than 2 meters in spaces that are poorly ventilated and this leads to the super spread of the virus. The scientists believe that the focus of people must be towards protecting themselves from the airborne spread as the infected individuals release a large quantity of virus-containing aerosols while breathing and talking.
The CDC didn’t change their safety recommendations after a thorough review, and concluded that people can be safe from the virus by wearing a mask covering their mouth and nose, cleaning surfaces, staying not less than 6 feet from other people, washing hands, and staying at home when feeling ill.
The CDC updated guidelines come a month after the agency posted revised guidelines admitting that the virus has the capability to spread through small droplets that can stay in the air called aerosols. The agency quickly removed the guidelines from their website claiming it was posted mistakenly and was only a draft version. At that time the World Health Organization (WHO) said that there was no evidence suggesting that the virus was spreading through airborne particles, although the WHO agreed that the transmission through airborne particles was possible in some conditions.
Scientists have been debating for months about the degree to which the virus can transmit through aerosol or airborne particles. Some epidemiologists believe that the WHO and other regulatory agencies have not been fast enough to admit that the virus is capable of transmitting via air. This debate can have some implications for the use of air filtration in the reopening of businesses and schools.
Saskia Popescu, a biodefense expert, and an epidemiologist said that the CDC updated guidelines are quite good. She believes that the guidance by CDC does a good job as it emphasizes that the coronavirus is capable of spreading only by air in some environments such as poorly ventilated and crowded indoor spaces. Popescu further added that it is known that the events of this nature are occurring but are not the key driver. Moreover, she said that it is a good reminder that in some environments the risk of airborne transmission is higher and people need to know that.
The researchers said that the general public, in order to protect themselves from the airborne transmission, should not take extra precautions required only by healthcare personnel such as wearing of personal protective equipment (PPE) or wearing medical-grade masks. They also believe that a clear distinction should be made by the public health officials between aerosols capable of carrying the virus for long distances or droplets that are released by sneezing or coughing.