How CDC takes the citizens for a ride
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control pulled new guidelines acknowledging the new coronavirus could be transmitted by tiny particles that linger in the air, saying a draft version of proposed changes was posted in error on the agency’s website.
For months, the CDC said the new coronavirus is primarily transmitted between people in close contact through large droplets that land in the mouths or noses of people nearby. On Friday, however, it added that tiny particles known as aerosols could transmit the virus.
Then abruptly on Monday, the CDC reversed course and removed the additions. Much of the guidelines’ earlier description of Covid-19 transmission, emphasizing spread via large droplets, was restored.
“A draft version of proposed changes to these recommendations was posted in error to the agency’s official website,” a CDC spokesman said in an email.
The CDC is still working on updating its recommendations regarding airborne transmission of the coronavirus, the spokesman said. “Once this process has been completed, the update language will be posted,” he said.
The back-and-forth could add to concerns raised by scientists that the CDC is facing pressure from the Trump administration to encourage reopening of schools and businesses and reduce testing.
The agency last week walked back a controversial recommendation that close contacts of Covid-19 patients don’t need to get tested if they don’t have symptoms.
The removal of aerosol transmission language could also further confuse the debate around how Covid-19 is spread.
“I think the statement on airborne transmission that was briefly available on the CDC website was correct,” said Linsey Marr, a Virginia Tech professor of civil and environmental engineering and an expert on airborne transmission of viruses.
“I hope that they are just refining the language and that they’re planning to put it back up there.”
Acknowledging aerosol transmission of the coronavirus would carry significant implications for how businesses and schools proceed with re-openings.
To reduce the risk of aerosol transmission, property owners and building managers would need to implement precautions such as better ventilation and proper social distancing, according to scientists and researchers studying Covid-19.
Aerosol and respiratory viruses experts have been arguing for months that Covid-19 is an airborne virus, pointing to studies of outbreaks that have shown that the new coronavirus spread even when close contact among people was avoided.
In almost all cases, the studies have found, people who contracted the virus had prolonged exposure to the airborne particles and weren’t wearing masks. In some of the cases, the person who infected others wasn’t yet symptomatic.
More than 200 scientists asked public-health agencies, in a letter published in July in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases, to acknowledge airborne transmission of Covid-19.
Later that month, the World Health Organization acknowledged the possibility of aerosol transmission. Yet it also said at the time that it believes Covid-19 transmission primarily occurs through larger, respiratory droplets and close contact.
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