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CDC Updates: Breathe Easier. And Preferably Outside…

Image of the men from the cartoon King of the Hill.

On Monday, October 5, the CDC revised its Covid guidance, removing the confusion created in September with its previous commentary. Previously, the CDC said that it “erroneously posted guidance saying the coronavirus spreads through airborne particles that can remain suspended in the air and travel beyond 6 feet.” The revised page clarifies and prioritizes the risk associated with various ways that Covid can spread.

Covid Spreads Easily

That Covid spreads easily is not news, but the CDC says the Covid virus spreads more efficiently than influenza but not as easily as measles

Covid Spreads Most Commonly During Close Contact

Again, not news, but the guidance says Covid infections occur most commonly through exposure to respiratory droplets from an infected person during direct contact and within six feet. Respiratory droplets cause infection when they are inhaled or deposited on mucous membranes, such as the nose and mouth.

“Covid Can Sometimes be Spread by Airborne Transmission”

The CDC’s September statement seemed to imply that the virus could not spread through airborne particles or travel beyond six feet. The new statement better defines “airborne transmission” and puts Covid in context with other viruses. Diseases including tuberculosis, measles, and chicken pox spread far more efficiently via airborne transmission than Covid.

It appears that the greatest risk of airborne transmission occurs when infected people are in enclosed spaces with poor ventilation. According to Science magazine, respiratory droplets are relatively large. Because of their size and weight, when they are exhaled or sprayed (via a sneeze or cough), they typically fall to the ground in a matter of seconds.  Aerosols on the other hand, are microscopic droplets or particles. Like second-hand smoke, they can be suspended in the air for minutes or hours and can be inhaled, although their concentration would have to be significantly high to cause infection. The CDC’s clarification clearly states that “…it is much more common for the virus that causes COVID-19 to spread through close contact with a person who has COVID-19 than through airborne transmission.”

Uncommon Methods of Transmission

It’s possible, but far less common, for people to touch respiratory droplets on a surface and then touch their mouth, nose, or eyes and become infected. Animals can contract Covid, but in all cases, they have been infected by their humans. If you have a Covid infection, do not kiss your dog, cat, horse, or hamster! It’s pretty darn difficult to keep a mask on any of those critters.

It appears that recommended steps to protect yourself against Covid remain the same. We’ll continue to track new guidance and provide updates. In the meantime, we continue to provide consistent supplies of high-quality face masks, sanitizer, and other pandemic necessities. 

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