The CDC for the first time acknowledges that the coronavirus is airborne

Woman coronavirus
A woman wears a mask in front of a pharmacy in Oberhausen, Germany. Fabian Strauch/Picture Alliance/Getty Images
  • The CDC acknowledged that the coronavirus is airborne in updated guidance.
  • The new guidance specifies that the coronavirus can be spread through inhalation of respiratory droplets containing the virus.
  • Previously, CDC guidance stated that most infections were transmitted through “close contact, not airborne transmission.”
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In revised guidance issued Friday, US public health officials acknowledged for the first time that the coronavirus can be spread through inhalation of respiratory droplets containing the virus.

Prior to Friday, guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention did not specify the virus is airborne, the New York Times reported.

The updated guidance acknowledges that one of the ways people can get infected with the virus is by breathing in affected particles.

“COVID-19 spreads when an infected person breathes out droplets and very small particles that contain the virus,” the updated guidance reads. “These droplets and particles can be breathed in by other people or land on their eyes, noses, or mouth.”

The revised guidelines also suggest that six feet of distance between people is not enough to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. Rather, people who stay six feet apart are less likely to catch the virus compared to people who are closer together.

In September, the CDC made similar remarks, saying that the coronavirus can “travel distances beyond six feet.” But days later, the agency retracted that guidance. Then a month later, the CDC said it found “evidence that under certain conditions, people with COVID-19 seem to have infected others who were more than 1.83m away.”

“C.D.C. has now caught up to the latest scientific evidence, and they’ve gotten rid of some old problematic terms and thinking about how transmission occurs,” Virginia Tech aerosol expert Linsey Marr told the Times.

For months, beginning last year, infectious disease expects have warned health agencies like the CDC and the World Health Organization that there’s strong evidence the virus is airborne.

The WHO acknowledged the virus might be airborne last year, but didn’t make any conclusive remarks.

The CDC’s updated guidance comes as the agency recommends that fully vaccinated individuals can go maskless while dining or exercising outdoors.

To decrease the potential spread of the coronavirus, the CDC advises people receive a COVID-19 vaccine as soon as its available to them and “avoid crowds and poorly ventilated indoor spaces,” among other suggestions.

The coronavirus has infected more than 32 million people in the United States in the last 15 months, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. More than 580,000 Americans have died.