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CDC Changes COVID-19 Precautions to Include Risk of Airborne Transmission

airborne transmission of COVID-19 on the subway

After months of debate, CDC makes decision to endorse the concept of airborne COVID-19 transmission as a risk for spread

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has released an important update on how COVID-19 is spread. For several months there have been many studies that have shown airborne transmission of SARS-CoV-2 is possible.

While the CDC has maintained since the beginning of the pandemic that the virus causing COVID-19 could only be spread via droplets that spread up to six feet, they accidentally released guidelines in late September 2020 that indicated they were considering naming aerosol transmission as a potential way the virus could spread. (See 5 Critical Questions Posed in New CDC SARS-CoV-2 Airborne Transmission Guidance.)

The CDC updated precautions on its website May 10, 2021, 14 months after the pandemic began in the United States. People are likely to become infected through “inhalation of air carrying very small fine droplets and aerosol particles that contain infectious virus,” the CDC’s new guidelines state.

While airborne transmission is now considered a possibility by the CDC, they explain that the “risk of transmission is greatest within three to six feet of an infectious source where the concentration of these very fine droplets and particles is greatest.” This continued emphasis on the benefits of social distancing comes less than two weeks after a rigorously reviewed MIT study showed that social distancing has little to no effect on preventing the spread of COVID-19. (See Six-Foot Rule For Preventing the Spread of COVID-19 is Likely Useless, MIT Researchers Find.)

Related Resource:

CDC: Scientific Brief: SARS-CoV-2 Transmission

CDC: How COVID-19 Spreads