CDC says coronavirus is airborne and can spread beyond 6 feet

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated its guidelines this week, acknowledging the novel coronavirus can linger in the air and spread beyond 6 feet, especially in certain conditions.

The Atlanta-based agency says airborne spread typically happens indoors, in enclosed spaces that are poorly ventilated, which may allow infected particles to linger and build up in the air.

Certain activities that cause a person to breathe heavily, like singing or exercising may be higher risk for aerosolized spread.

U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Jerome Adams says airborne spread can occur, but it is not common, and it is not the main way the virus is transmitted from one person to another.

"The number one way this virus is spread is it's spread through droplets, when you're talking, when you're coughing, when you're singing, when you're sneezing," Dr. Adams says.  "The closer you are to someone, the more likely those droplets will come out of their mouth and land on you."

Scientists have been pressuring the CDC to acknowledge airborne transmission of the virus.

On the CDC's website, the agency says it is aware of reports of people infected by someone with the virus who was more than six feet away or was no longer in the room.

That may be significant because about 40% of people infected with COVID-19 may not experience symptoms.

So, they may be spreading the virus without knowing they have it.

The CDC is not advising Americans to take additional precautions.

"The basic things we tell people don't change; wear your mask, wash your hands and keep your distance," Dr. Adams says.  "Also, (it's) incredibly important in the fall is to try to get your flu shot.  You can go to to find the vaccine in your community."

On Wednesday, Emory infectious disease specialist Dr. Colleen Kraft encouraged families to take safety precautions when celebrating Halloween.

The CDC has urged Americans to avoid traditional trick-or-treating, in which children go door-to-door ringing doorbells, saying the close contact involved risky in a pandemic.

Dr. Kraft advised people who want to hand out treats to move the candy bowl outside and sit at least 6 feet away from it.

That will allow you to greet trick-or-treaters and social distance at the same time.

Dr. Kraft also encouraged families to avoid indoor activities such as haunted houses.

Outdoor “haunted walks,” she says, may be a safer option.