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CDC says new guidance on airborne coronavirus transmission was ‘posted in error’

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On Friday, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) posted an update to guidance on COVID-19 that said the virus could be spread through the air through aerosolized droplets.

On Monday, the CDC walked back the update, claiming it was posted erroneously.

“A draft version of proposed changes to these recommendations was posted in error to the agency’s official website. 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 information has been removed from the CDC coronavirus website.

On Friday, updated information suggested the virus could spread through the air and could travel beyond six feet. “These particles can be inhaled into the nose, mouth, airways, and lungs and cause infection. This is thought to be the main way the virus spreads,” the draft said.

“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 page said. “In general, indoor environments without good ventilation increase this risk.”

The CDC language also shifted on asymptomatic spread, saying “some people without symptoms may be able to spread the virus” to saying “people who are infected but do not show symptoms can spread the virus to others.”

Earlier in the day, the World Health Organization said it contacted the CDC about the guidance change.

The WHO had not seen any “new evidence” on airborne particles and was checking with the CDC to “better understand” the exact nature of the change, Dr. Mike Ryan, executive director of the WHO’s health emergencies program, said during a news conference at the agency’s Geneva headquarters.

In July, the World Health Organization acknowledged the possibility that COVID-19 might be spread in the air under certain conditions.

In a report published in May, researchers found that talking produced respiratory droplets that could remain in the air in a closed environment for about eight to 14 minutes.

The WHO says those most at risk from airborne spread are doctors and nurses who perform specialized procedures such as inserting a breathing tube or putting patients on a ventilator. Medical authorities recommend the use of protective masks and other equipment when doing such procedures.

Scientists maintain it’s far less risky to be outside than indoors because virus droplets disperse in the fresh air, reducing the chances of COVID-19 transmission.


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