CDC backtracks on warning that coronavirus is airborne

The version posted quietly Friday cautioned that the virus spreads mainly through “aerosols, produced when an infected person coughs, sneezes, sings, talks, or breathes.” The guidance also noted that the particles that can travel farther than 6 feet and are especially dangerous in enclosed spaces with poor ventilation.

And it specifically cautioned that choir practice, restaurants and fitness classes or any indoor environments without good ventilation increase a person’s risk of catching the virus. The change in guidance was first reported by CNN.

Background: The CDC’s backtracking adds to mixed messages from the agency and the White House on the evolving threat of the coronavirus. It comes amid concern about political interference at the public health agency, after POLITICO revealed that the Trump administration has attempted to interfere in the CDC’s scientific reports.

Brooks defended the CDC’s reports, saying the agency’s authors “work methodically to follow the most rigorous scientific review process akin to that of highest scientific journals to ensure timely accurate reliable and most important trustworthy public health information and recommendations.”

The agency also came under fire last month after it stopped promoting testing for most asymptomatic people with extended exposure to someone with a confirmed infection. Top Trump administration officials involved with the White House coronavirus task force last month ordered the CDC to make that change, POLITICO has reported. The agency reversed course last week and once again recommends testing for people without Covid-19 symptoms who have had a high-risk exposure to someone with the virus.

What’s next: For months, CDC has stressed that the virus spreads mainly between people in close contact — usually within 6 feet or less. That advice guided response efforts across the country, with businesses, schools and other establishments enforcing social distancing requirements that people stay 6 feet apart.

The Trump administration continues to push schools and businesses to reopen, and the president is holding large, indoor campaign rallies — which would be considered high-risk events under the retracted CDC guidance.