The CDC changed its guidance on its website yesterday, alerting Americans that COVID-19 can be spread by aerosols that hang in the air. "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 agency stated. Read on to see where they warned you don't go, and to protect your health, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had Coronavirus.
How COVID-19 Most Commonly Spreads
The news comes at a time when the CDC updated its page about transmission, saying "COVID-19 most commonly spreads
- Between people who are in close contact with one another (within about 6 feet).
- Through respiratory droplets or small particles, such as those in aerosols, produced when an infected person coughs, sneezes, sings, talks, or breaths.
- 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.
- Droplets can also land on surfaces and objects and be transferred by touch. A person may get COVID-19 by touching the surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or eyes. Spread from touching surfaces is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads."
The agency also said where you're at risk: "In general, indoor environments without good ventilation increase this risk."
RELATED: COVID Mistakes You Should Never Make
How COVID-19 Transmits in Poorly-Ventilated Spaces
If a person is infected with the virus, he or she can transmit it rather easily. "When we, exhale, talk, laugh, cough, or sneeze, we expel respiratory secretions into the air," explains Dr. Deborah Lee, a medical writer at Dr Fox Online Pharmacy. "The smaller droplets are known as aerosols."
Aerosols are a big problem in the spread of all infectious diseases—especially in your home. "COVID-19 was detected for example in 63.2% aerosol samples taken (more than 6 feet away) from rooms housing an infected patient," says Dr. Lee, "and in 66.7% of aerosol samples taken from outside the bedroom door."
Spread outside, these droplets have a better chance of dissipating. But indoors, less so: "Droplets cannot travel more than a distance of six feet," says Dr. Lee, "after which they become diluted, and dissipate in the atmosphere. However, when you cough or sneeze you create a 'gas cloud' which can travel much further—up to 8 meters." (Indeed, Bromage estimates that a single sneeze can release 30,000 droplets going up to 200 miles per hour.)
This might explain why some cities are seeing outbreaks despite stay-at-home orders. The spread is happening indoors. New York, for example, found that 66% of new hospitalizations in mid-May for COVID-19 were people who had been staying home, in a survey of about 1,300 new patients. "This is a surprise: Overwhelmingly, the people were at home," Gov. Andrew Cuomo said at a press conference. "We thought maybe they were taking public transportation, and we've taken special precautions on public transportation, but actually no, because these people were literally at home."
How to Avoid COVID-19
Avoid indoor spaces, period, or if you must enter one, make sure it is appropriately ventilated, with open windows, for example—and only shelter with people you know are COVID-free. And to get through this pandemic at your healthiest, don't miss this essential list of 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch Coronavirus.