The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) changed its guidance regarding coronavirus transmission Friday, saying the virus can travel “beyond 6 feet” through the air.
“It is possible that COVID-19 may spread through the droplets and airborne particles that are formed when a person who has COVID-19 coughs, sneezes, sings, talks, or breathes,” the updated guidelines read. “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 CDC also warned that “indoor environments without good ventilation” increases the risk of contracting the virus.
The agency said inhaling the particles is the primary mode of transmission.
“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 CDC previously said social distancing of 6 feet was a good way to avoid the virus, according to CNN. The guidelines now recommend staying “at least 6 feet away from others, whenever possible.”
The guidance also changed the language regarding asymptomatic transmission. Originally the guidelines said “some people without symptoms may be able to spread the virus,” according to CNN. However the guidelines now say “people who are infected but do not show symptoms can spread the virus to others.”
In July, the journal of Clinical Infectious Diseases published a letter from more than 200 scientists urging the World Health Organization (WHO) to address the fact that the virus can spread through droplets floating in the air.
“There is significant potential for inhalation exposure to viruses in microscopic respiratory droplets (micro droplets) at short to medium distances (up to several meters, or room scale),” the letter read. (RELATED: Study Finds That Full Lockdowns Did Not Reduce Coronavirus Mortality Rate)
The letter said that “viruses are released during exhalation, talking, and coughing in microdroplets small enough to remain aloft in air and pose a risk of exposure at distances beyond 1-2m [3-6 feet] from an infected individual.”
“Most public health organizations, including the World Health Organization, do not recognize airborne transmission except for aerosol-generating procedures performed in healthcare settings. Hand washing and social distancing are appropriate but, in our view, insufficient to provide protection from virus-carrying respiratory micro droplets released into the air by infected people.”
The WHO issued a report following the letter saying the coronavirus can possibly pass through air in crowded indoor spaces.