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CDC says revised guidance on airborne COVID-19 particles was published in error

The agency said a ‘draft version of proposed changes’ was mistakenly posted Friday

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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said Monday that COVID-19 guidance posted late last week on its official website was posted in error. 

On Friday, the CDC published guidance saying that the virus spreads through airborne particles that can remain in the air and travel distances beyond six feet.

''A draft version of proposed changes to these recommendations was posted in error to the agency's official website,” the agency in a statement. “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.” 

Mistakenly published

The now-removed guidance originally claimed that there is a growing body of scientific evidence showing that droplets and airborne particles can linger in the air and be breathed in by others.

“There is growing evidence that droplets and airborne particles can remain suspended in the air and be breathed in by others, and travel distances beyond 6 feet (for example, during choir practice, in restaurants, or in fitness classes),” the deleted guidance said. “In general, indoor environments without good ventilation increase this risk.”

The World Health Organization (WHO) contacted the CDC about the guidance, saying it hadn’t seen any “new evidence” regarding the nature of airborne particles. The WHO currently says the virus is spread mainly through respiratory droplets ejected when an infected person coughs, sneezes, or breathes. For this reason, health officials continue to recommend that people wear face masks. 

The CDC has now reverted its mistakenly posted revision to its original guidance. 

“The virus is thought to spread mainly from person-to-person,” the CDC states. The agency mentions that the virus “may be spread in other ways,” but it no longer mentions anything about it being airborne. 

More CDC guidance changes

To date, the U.S. has more than 6.8 million cases and nearly 200,000 deaths from COVID-19, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. 

The CDC’s admission that it erroneously published draft guidance comes on the heels of a controversial change to its guidance for testing asymptomatic individuals. The agency had modified its guidance to state that people who had been exposed to an infected person but weren’t showing symptoms of COVID-19 did “not necessarily need a test.” However, it also walked back that guidance after health officials expressed concerns.

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