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CDC officially says COVID-19 droplets can remain in the air for hours

The update comes after the agency mistakenly posted a ‘draft version’ of the guidance

Photo (c) metamorworks - Getty Images
On Monday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) changed its website to state that COVID-19 can be spread by airborne transmission. 

The update comes two weeks after the agency mistakenly published a “draft version of proposed changes” to the section of its website that detailed how COVID-19 is spread. At the end of September, the CDC changed its website to say that the virus spreads through airborne particles that can remain in the air and travel distances beyond six feet. A few days later, the CDC said the guidance was “posted in error.” 

“CDC is currently updating its recommendations regarding airborne transmission of SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19). Once this process has been completed, the update language will be posted,” the agency said at the time. 

Now, the CDC has officially acknowledged that COVID-19 can be spread via droplets that can remain in the air for hours. 

"Some infections can be spread by exposure to the virus in small droplets and particles that can linger in the air for minutes to hours,” the CDC said Monday. “These viruses may be able to infect people who are further than 6 feet away from the person who is infected or after that person has left the space.”

"This kind of spread is referred to as airborne transmission and is an important way that infections like tuberculosis, measles, and chicken pox are spread,” CDC officials added. 

Most commonly spread through close contact

The CDC said the main way that the virus spreads is still through close contact with an infected individual. However, COVID-19 has been found to also be spread through the air, potentially infecting people who are more than six feet away in cases where people are in a confined space without proper ventilation. 

For example, the CDC said the virus can be spread in cases where people are breathing heavily or singing in an enclosed space. 

“People who are infected but do not show symptoms can also spread the virus to others,” the agency added. “We are still learning about how the virus spreads and the severity of illness it causes.”

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