CDC, Update 5.10.2020

Pathogens that are mainly transmitted through close contact (i.e., contact transmission and droplet transmission) can sometimes also be spread via airborne transmission under special circumstances. There are several well-documented examples in which SARS-CoV-2 appears to have been transmitted over long distances or times. These transmission events appear uncommon and have typically involved the presence of an infectious person producing respiratory droplets for an extended time (>30 minutes to multiple hours) in an enclosed space. Enough virus was present in the space to cause infections in people who were more than 6 feet away or who passed through that space soon after the infectious person had left. Circumstances under which airborne transmission of SARS-CoV-2 appears to have occurred include:

  • Enclosed spaces¬†within which an infectious person either exposed susceptible people at the same time or to which susceptible people were exposed shortly after the infectious person had left the space.
  • Prolonged exposure to respiratory particles, often generated with expiratory exertion (e.g., shouting, singing, exercising) that increased the concentration of suspended respiratory droplets in the air space.

Inadequate ventilation or air handling that allowed a build-up of suspended small respiratory droplets and particles.

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