COLUMBUS, Ohio — The CDC backed down from guidance it released over the weekend on how it believes coronavirus is spread.​

What You Need To Know

  • CDC backtracks days after saying coronavirus transmits through air

  • The CDC said it was draft language that was not ready to be published

  • Airborne viruses are more contagious and easier to transmit

  • Concerns are growing as winter nears, forcing activities inside

Over the weekend, the CDC changed its guidance to say coronavirus could be transmitted through the air.   

On Monday, they took that back, saying that was draft language not meant to be published and reverted back to its previous stance that COVID-19 is mostly spread through respiratory droplets like coughing or sneezing.​

“Up to this point, we've really been working on the notion of it being technically a droplet-spread virus — meaning larger respiratory droplets from coughing and sneezing and loud talking or laughter is the carrier, sort of vehicle, for the virus," said Dr. Iahn Gonsenhauser, with OSU's Wexner Medical Center. "Airborne viruses spread a little bit differently. They don't require large respiratory droplets. They can be carried on very small respiratory droplets — even aerosols.  True, airborne viruses are things like tuberculosis, where simply talking is enough to get the virus in the air that can be spread to other people."

The National Academy of Sciences, a private nonprofit not associated with the government, has long said COVID is an airborne virus. That means the virus can linger in the air, potentially spreading to people beyond six feet and who weren’t in close contact with the infected person. 

Now the CDC is going back to saying the virus is spread through respiratory droplets, mostly from close contact. 

The concern really begins to grow as winter approaches, forcing people to do more activities indoors with businesses like gyms, restaurants, bars, and the like being particularly risky.

“We really haven't seen too much that supports an in-restaurant dining experience that is really safe from this," Dr. Gonsenhauser said.  "I think right now, the best thing that we can be doing is still enjoying those restaurants, enjoying what they produce, but enjoy it by taking it away and taking it home to a controlled environment.”

And that’s really somber news for an industry that has greatly struggled during this pandemic.  

Dr. Gonsenhauser says if this virus is indeed airborne, even some of the indoor measures, like keeping tables six feet apart and putting up partitions between them may not be enough.

“You think about the way, you know, air moves around, so those physical barriers and those spaces are definitely helpful and they definitely reduce risk, but they don't take it away,” he said.​

That would mean everyone inside that environment is capable of breathing in the virus.  

“That really amplifies the ability of this to spread. If we're considering it more of an airborne vector, it means that if you're in those environments, your mask use is going to be that much more important. It means that even in those environments, really, again, maintaining those safe, practicing safe, safe distances of six feet or greater,” he explaied.

While we wait to see if the CDC changes guidance again, Dr. Gonsenhauser reminds people that it’s not just where, but also who you take your mask off around, especially people you haven’t been exposed to in some time. Because even close friends and family members can still unknowingly spread the virus.