Updated CDC Guidance on Airborne Transmission of COVID-19

October 8, 2020

On October 5, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) updated its general position and guidance for the public on transmission of COVID-19 to acknowledge evidence that “COVID-19 can sometimes be spread by airborne transmission” and that “people with COVID-19 seem to have infected others who were more than 6 feet away.”

This modifies CDC’s prior position on how SARS-CoV-2 spreads. CDC has not, however, modified its infection control recommendations for health care settings. Hospitals are encouraged to review their current policies for health care workers and personal protective equipment and ensure they are aligned with the latest evidence.

The updated guidance further notes that “these transmissions occurred within enclosed spaces that had inadequate ventilation. Sometimes the infected person was breathing heavily, for example while singing or exercising.” The guidance notes that after a review of the evidence, the main transmission of SARS-CoV-2 appears to be via droplets, and that individuals can reduce transmission of the virus by staying at least six 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.

Including airborne transmission as a mode of transmission for SARS-CoV-2 aligns the CDC’s guidance with reports issued by the World Health Organization.