Dr. Fauci Says There's Now Evidence That Coronavirus Spreads This Way
The top health official is giving cautious credibility to this coronavirus fact in a new interview.
When it comes to helping prevent the further spread of the coronavirus, nothing has been more important than discovering how it's transmitted. While it seems clear now that you're not likely to get COVID-19 from surfaces and that person-to-person transmission is the most common, leading scientists have struggled to come to a consensus on one topic in particular: airborne spread. Now, Anthony Fauci, MD, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), is saying that there's mounting evidence to support that coronavirus is airborne.
While speaking with the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) on August 3, Fauci said, "I think that there certainly is a degree of aerosolization," before cautiously clarifying "but I'm going to take a step back and make sure that we learn the facts before we start talking about it."
He continued: "It's something we're learning more and more about. We've got to make sure that we're humble enough to accumulate new knowledge and use it as we get it."
Fauci's statements fall closely in line with the updated guidance from the World Health Organization, which acknowledged on July 9 that the coronavirus was capable of airborne spread instead of solely through large droplets passed by sneezing or coughing.
There are two different types of droplets, heavier ones that are expelled through coughs and sneezes that tend to fall to the ground quickly and light-weight microdroplets that travel much greater distances and hang in the air longer. In mid-July, Fauci did an interview with Mark Zuckerberg on Facebook Live, and explained the difference in these droplets.
"Most of the droplets, when people speak and you see that little spray come out, are greater than five micrometers. Those are the kind that, they're heavy enough, Mark, they don't go anymore than three feet, at the most six feet," Fauci explained. "Which is why we say, when you're outside, stay at least six feet apart form someone."
But then, "there are other droplets that are less than five micrometers," Fauci continued. "Those are the ones that can 'aerosolize.' Aerosolize means, instead of coming out from out of your mouth and dropping within three to six feet, it can kind of float around the air and stay in the air for a period of time."
The WHO's recognization that COVID-19 can be aerosolized came after 239 clinicians, engineers, physicians, and scientists published an open letter in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases urging the WHO to reassess their position on aerosolized transmission. The update clarified that while more research is needed "given the possible implications of such [a] route of transmission," it acknowledged that the airborne spread of the virus between people at close range is possible, especially in poorly ventilated spaces.
"We need to pay a little bit more attention now to the recirculation of air indoors," Fauci told JAMA. "Mask-wearing indoors when you're in a situation like that is something that is as important as wearing masks when you're outside dealing with individuals who you don't know where they came from or who they are."
The big question now is how much those microdroplets contribute to COVID-19 transmission. And for more new information on how coronavirus spreads, check out The CDC Now Says This Might Play an "Important Role" in COVID Transmission.