The Centers for Disease Control apologized after it appeared to release revised guidance about the airborne transmission of the coronavirus, then removed it and said it was posted in error.
The new guidance posted quietly on Friday and deleted on Monday said that airborne transmission through microscopic particles was the main way the coronavirus was thought to be transmitted and that the particles were expelled an infected person “coughs, sneezes, sings, talks or breathes.”
The current guidance has now reverted back to saying that the main way the virus spreads is through droplets from an infected person and that close contact of 10 to 15 minutes was necessary.
The World Health Organization and other medical organizations have been saying that airborne transmission was likely since July and welcomed the new guidance before it was removed.
CDC looking at new guidance
The CDC said that the revised guidance was a “draft version of proposed changes” and that it was still studying information about virus spread before deciding on a final version.
“CDC is currently updating its recommendations regarding airborne transmission of SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19),” the CDC wrote. “Once this process has been completed, the update language will be posted.”
If airborne transmission of the virus is common, it would impact recommendations about how people could best avoid it, especially indoors. Airborne particles could possibly travel more than six feet, through ventilation systems in buildings, and through most types of masks.
For instance, NPR suggested facing away from someone if you are talking to them and are closer than six feet and avoiding poorly ventilated indoor spaces if airborne transmission is a concern.
Scientists urged update
Hundreds of scientists wrote to WHO in July about addressing the possibility of airborne transmission before it updated its guidance in July to say that the coronavirus could be spread that way.
WHO has maintained that the extent of airborne transmission of the virus is still unknown.
Trump has recently contradicted the CDC and other health organizations by insisting that a coronavirus vaccine could be available by Election Day and questioning whether masks are really effective.
Officially, Trump has encouraged mask-wearing but made it clear that he doesn’t think there should be mandates to wear them.