The CDC Now Says COVID Spreads These 5 Ways

The CDC just acknowledged new ways the virus can be transmitted. Here's what to know about how COVID spreads.

Update: On Sept. 21, the CDC said it had posted the updated guidance on COVID being spread through airborne particles "in error." A disclaimer on the top of the page about how COVID spreads now reads: "A draft version of proposed changes to these recommendations was posted in error to the agency's official website. CDC is currently updating its recommendations regarding airborne transmission of SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19). Once this process has been completed, the update language will be posted." The page has been reverted to its version from before Friday, Sept. 18, which does not acknowledge airborne spread.

Best Life's original article appears below.

Over the past week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has made multiple significant adjustments to their guidance around COVID. On Sept. 18, the CDC reversed their guidelines on testing, once again noting that asymptomatic people should be tested if they come into contact with a positive COVID case. On the same day, the CDC quietly changed its guidance on how COVID spreads and it's one of the most significant adjustments yet. The CDC is now acknowledging that COVID can spread through the air.

"COVID-19 most commonly spreads through respiratory droplets or small particles, such as those in aerosols, produced [from] an infected person," the CDC website now reads. For months, health experts have urged the CDC to acknowledge the mounting evidence that suggests COVID could be transmitted through aerosols, meaning tiny particles in the air. Until this most recent update, however, the CDC has largely ignored the possibility that COVID could be airborne in its formal guidelines.

"There is growing evidence that droplets and airborne particles can remain suspended in the air and be breathed in by others, and travel distances beyond six feet (for example, during choir practice, in restaurants, or in fitness classes)," the CDC's site now reads.

The agency also warns of the potential dangers of poor ventilation: "In general, indoor environments without good ventilation increase this risk."

The CDC page previously said that COVID was thought to spread mainly between people in close contact—within six feet—"through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs, sneezes or talks." And while that's true, the page has been altered to now include two other ways the virus can spread through droplets, whether large or aerosolized.

These are the five ways COVID spreads, according to the CDC's updated guidance. And for more behavior to avoid, check out 24 Things You're Doing Every Day That Put You at COVID Risk.


adults taking deep breaths habits after 40

The CDC just added that COVID could be spread via breathing, although a study published in Current Medicine Research and Practice on May 8 reported that "even breathing or talking could possibly release tiny particles … carrying the SARS-CoV-2 virus which causes COVID 19." The study described how COVID could linger in the air in an "ultrafine mist that is produced when infected people exhale." And if you're worried you could have the virus, check out These Are the 51 Most Common COVID Symptoms You Could Have.


Woman singing in the car

One of the earliest COVID superspreader events was a choir practice in Washington state. One COVID positive person attended the choir practice, which resulted in 32 confirmed COVID cases and 20 probable cases, according to the CDC. "Transmission was likely facilitated by close proximity (within six feet) during practice and augmented by the act of singing," the CDC wrote.


Friends drinking beer with opened face masks - New normal lifestyle concept with people having fun together talking on happy hour at brewery bar - Bright vivid filter with focus on afroamerican guy

The CDC has consistently maintained talking with someone, especially within six feet for 15 minutes or more, could easily lead to transmission of the virus. To steer clear of COVID, check out Dr. Fauci Says These 3 Places Must Close to Avoid More COVID Surges.


Woman coughing on the bus

Coughing can expel large droplets further than simply talking or breathing, which makes it a higher risk for transmitting COVID.


Girl sneezing in store covering with her elbow

Similarly to coughing, sneezing expels large droplets, which can readily transmit COVID. And for more useful content delivered straight to your inbox, sign up for our daily newsletter.

Best Life is constantly monitoring the latest news as it relates to COVID-19 in order to keep you healthy, safe, and informed. Here are the answers to your most burning questions, the ways you can stay safe and healthy, the facts you need to know, the risks you should avoid, the myths you need to ignore,and the symptoms to be aware of. Click here for all of our COVID-19 coverage, and sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.
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