Coronavirus can float in air droplets and is likely transmitting that way, according to a group of international experts.
The group is planning to publish an open letter on Monday to the World Health Organization and other health agencies, asking them to be more forthright in explaining how the virus can transmit in the air.
The letter is signed by 239 scientists from around the world.
It’s not a secret; health experts and countries around the world, like Japan, have warned for months that the virus transmits in close contact in crowded spaces with poor ventilation due to how it travels through droplets.
But agencies seem to be afraid to talk about the airborne nature of the virus, said Donald Milton, one of the authors and a professor at the University of Maryland.
“The airborne transmission word seems to be loaded,” Milton told CNN on Sunday. “I guess we are hoping that WHO will come around and be more willing to acknowledge the important roles of aerosols, whether they want to call it airborne transmission or not.”
What airborne transmission means: The virus is carried on droplets that come out of people’s mouths and noses, and the sizes of those droplets vary.
Large droplets fall onto surfaces rapidly and can be picked up on fingers and carried to the eyes, nose or mouth. Smaller droplets can stay in the air longer, and can be inhaled more deeply into the lungs.
We still don't clearly understand how important droplet size is to coronavirus transmission, Milton said -- but studies show it’s a factor.
A loud bar, where people must shout to be heard, is a perfect storm of close contact, poor air circulation and people generating a lot of virus-carrying particles by talking, laughing and bellowing.
What we can do about it: Milton said the best way to protect against fine aerosols is to use an N-95 respirator or higher – something in scarce supply in many places.
But there are others ways, too, including improved ventilation, as well as distancing and mask use. That’s information the average person can use and act on.
“I am very much concerned about the general public and schools and ventilation in school buildings and in dorms on college campuses and in bars and in churches and where people sing and where people congregate,” he said.