WASHINGTON - COVID-19 is transmitted through Aerosols, according to Time magazine.
Many months into the COVID-19 pandemic, the coronavirus is still spreading uncontrolled through the U.S. Public health authorities including the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO) tell us to remain six feet apart, wash our hands, disinfect frequently touched surfaces, and wear masks.
But compliance with these measures—especially masks—is mixed, and daily we hear of cases where people do not know how they were infected. We hear about superspreading events, where one person infects many, happening in crowded bars and family gatherings, but not at outdoor demonstrations.
Beaches in cities like Chicago are closed, but gyms and indoor dining at restaurants have reopened. It is no wonder the public is confused.
It is critical to have a clear physical description of the ways in which COVID-19 is transmitted, so that individuals and institutions are able to visualize it and will understand how to protect themselves.
Contrary to public health messaging, I, together with many other scientists, believe that a substantial share of COVID-19 cases are the result of transmission through aerosols. The evidence in favor of aerosols is stronger than that for any other pathway, and officials need to be more aggressive in expressing this reality if we want to get the pandemic under control.
There are three possible ways the virus is transmitted, of which two have been emphasized by the WHO and the CDC. The first is through “fomites,” objects that are contaminated with the virus (which could include someone else’s skin).
Early in the pandemic, concern over fomite transmission drove some people to bleach groceries and packages. The CDC now says fomites are a possible means of transmission, but likely not one that is major. For example, an intensive handwashing program in the UK led to only a 16% reduction in transmission.
Significantly, other viruses that, like SARS-CoV-2 (the one that causes COVID-19), have a lipid envelope, do not survive long on human hands. That means someone would need to touch their eyes, nostrils, or mouth a short time after touching a contaminated surface in order to contract the novel coronavirus.
The second possibility for how COVID-19 spreads is through droplets, small bits of saliva or respiratory fluid that infected individuals expel when they cough, sneeze, or talk. Droplets—which the WHO and CDC maintain is the primary means of transmission of COVID-19—are propelled through the air, but fall to the ground after traveling 3-6 feet.
However, published research, which has been replicated, shows that droplets are only important when coughing and sneezing. But when it comes to talking in close proximity, which appears to play a major role in COVID-19 transmission, droplets are less important than the third potential pathway: aerosols.