CDC changes COVID-19 guidance again, saying coronavirus is airborne

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention again updated its guidance on COVID-19 transmission Monday to include information on how the disease spreads through the air via tiny respiratory droplets lingering for as long as several hours.

While the agency said that the virus is mainly transmitted through close contact from one person to another, “some infections can be spread by exposure to virus in small droplets and particles that can linger in the air for minutes to hours.”

“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,” the CDC said. 

The CDC put out a separate statement on Monday detailing the health agency’s current understanding of how the virus that has killed more than 200,000 Americans spreads.

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FILE - Director for Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Robert R. Redfield speaks during a hearing of the Senate Appropriations subcommittee reviewing coronavirus response efforts on September 16, 2020 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Anna Moneymaker-Pool/Getty Images)

“Today’s update acknowledges the existence of some published reports showing limited, uncommon circumstances where people with COVID-19 infected others who were more than 6 feet away or shortly after the COVID-19-positive person left an area. In these instances, transmission occurred in poorly ventilated and enclosed spaces that often involved activities that caused heavier breathing, like singing or exercise. Such environments and activities may contribute to the buildup of virus-carrying particles,” the CDC wrote. 

The acknowledgement comes just weeks after the agency had abruptly removed guidance that stated the novel coronavirus can be transmitted by tiny particles that linger in the air. 

The agency said that the guidance which was originally posted on Sept. 21 was posted by mistake. 

RELATED: CDC abruptly removes guidance on COVID-19 airborne transmission, says it was posted in error

“A draft version of proposed changes to these recommendations was posted in error to the agency’s official website,” the CDC said in an email. “CDC is currently updating its recommendations regarding airborne transmission of SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19).”

While the CDC has now confirmed that COVID-19 can be spread through airborne transmission, the agency maintains that it is most commonly spread through close contact. 

“People can protect themselves from the virus that causes COVID-19 by staying at least 6 feet away from others, wearing a mask that covers their nose and mouth, washing their hands frequently, cleaning touched surfaces often and staying home when sick,” according to the CDC.