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Experts tell White House coronavirus can spread through talking or even just breathing

CNN's Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, reports.

Posted: Apr 2, 2020 6:58 AM
Updated: Apr 2, 2020 9:15 AM


A prestigious scientific panel told the White House Wednesday night that research shows coronavirus can be spread not just by sneezes or coughs, but also just by talking, or possibly even just breathing.

'While the current [coronavirus] specific research is limited, the results of available studies are consistent with aerosolization of virus from normal breathing,' according to the letter, written by Dr. Harvey Fineberg, chairman of a committee with the National Academy of Sciences.

Fineberg told CNN that he will wear start wearing a mask when he goes to the grocery store.

'I'm not going to wear a surgical mask, because clinicians need those,' said Fineberg, former dean of the Harvard School of Public Health. 'But I have a nice western-style bandana I might wear. Or I have a balaclava. I have some pretty nice options.'

Dr. Anthony Fauci, a key member of the White House's coronavirus task force, told CNN Tuesday that the idea of recommending broad use of masks in the US to prevent the spread of coronavirus is under 'very active discussion' by the group.

Fineberg, chair of the NAS' Standing Committee on Emerging Infectious Diseases and 21st Century Health Threats, said his letter was sent Wednesday evening in response to a query from Kelvin Droegemeier with the Office of Science and Technology Policy at the White House.

'This letter responds to your question concerning the possibility that [coronavirus] could be spread by conversation, in addition to sneeze/cough-induced droplets,' the letter states. 'Currently available research supports the possibility that [coronavirus] could be spread via bioaerosols generated directly by patients' exhalation,' it continues.

According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the virus spreads from person to person when people are within about 6 feet of each other 'through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes.'

Fineberg told CNN this is true, but that research shows that aerosolized droplets produced by talking or possibly even by just breathing can also spread the virus.

His letter explains that research at a hospital in China shows the virus can be suspended in the air when doctors and nurses remove protective gear, or when floors are cleaned, or when staff move around.

Research by the University of Nebraska shows that genetic material from the virus was found in patients' rooms more than 6 feet away from the patients, according to the letter.

Fineberg said it's possible that aerosolized coronavirus droplets can hang in the air and potentially infect someone who walks by later.

He added, however, that coronavirus is not as infectious as measles or tuberculosis.

How long coronavirus lingers in the air depends on several factors, including how much virus an infected individual puts out when breathing or talking, and also on the amount of circulation in the air, he said.

'If you generate an aerosol of the virus with no circulation in a room, it's conceivable that if you walk through later, you could inhale the virus,' Fineberg said. 'But if you're outside, the breeze will likely disperse it.'

Oregon Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 387485

Reported Deaths: 5116
CountyCasesDeaths
Multnomah59768836
Washington41571393
Marion39592504
Clackamas32426376
Lane29856354
Jackson24672350
Deschutes23182185
Umatilla15087180
Linn14488178
Douglas13236286
Josephine10057240
Yamhill9665142
Klamath8979145
Polk813698
Benton605137
Malheur591586
Coos5573106
Columbia423855
Jefferson416865
Lincoln357252
Union336854
Crook330156
Wasco314846
Clatsop258335
Baker217531
Tillamook214345
Hood River211337
Morrow197025
Curry190136
Harney119332
Grant108314
Lake104016
Wallowa74713
Sherman1903
Gilliam1844
Wheeler1141
Unassigned00

California Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 5060666

Reported Deaths: 74152
CountyCasesDeaths
Los Angeles152491227121
San Diego4047084319
Riverside3849455306
San Bernardino3718825944
Orange3329505675
Sacramento1674002423
Kern1565171781
Fresno1558992246
Santa Clara1511691922
Alameda1246581504
San Joaquin1070001833
Ventura1036461188
Contra Costa1032921045
Stanislaus912991413
Tulare856141082
San Francisco56614669
San Mateo56058629
Monterey52340625
Solano47422356
Santa Barbara47035548
Merced44807664
Sonoma42912412
Placer41881468
Imperial38128769
Kings35038358
San Luis Obispo31294358
Madera26005311
Shasta25917440
Butte25295309
Santa Cruz22028222
Yolo21451257
Marin18342248
El Dorado18166161
Sutter14494181
Napa13372104
Yuba1070088
Tehama10230129
Humboldt10043117
Nevada9914103
Mendocino848894
Lassen792355
San Benito775977
Tuolumne767790
Lake6990110
Amador573766
Siskiyou470954
Glenn455136
Calaveras435685
Del Norte371242
Colusa323519
Inyo254345
Plumas19127
Mono18294
Mariposa156718
Trinity98817
Modoc7475
Unassigned2430
Sierra2170
Alpine1060
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