WHO says 'evidence emerging' airborne COVID-19 spread may be a threat indoors

Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2020/07/07/who-says-evidence-emerging.html

“We appeal to the medical community and to the relevant national and international bodies to recognize the potential for airborne spread of COVID-19,” 239 researchers in 32 countries wrote to WHO.


I can honestly say I’m sick of all this winning.


In another demonstration of impeccable timing and judgement during this crisis, the Trump administration has begun the process to formally withdraw the United States of America from the World Health Administration.


It will take more passes and fine tuning as it hones it’s skills. Meanwhile, there are relatives in the wings.

So here in the US, land of air conditioning, all the exhaled breath from all those maskless people is being recirculated endlessly in all those climate controlled indoor spaces we gather, work and study in, with only the minimum amount of outside air being introduced for efficiency. Not good.


Yeah, go ahead and book those airplane tickets.

No. Do not not buy airplane tickets.


We are all informed enough to know this is a kerfuffle over nothing right?

We have known for a long time, airborne droplets transmit.

But this is not airborne in the sense it goes down hallways and through ducting.

It does not even go one table over if the aircon unit in the restaurant doesn’t point that way.

Surprised Xeni wasn’t more informed in the presentation here.

ETA: This is the expert opinion I would go with:


Yeah ok, you stand in a room where a Covid positive person sneezes or coughs and get back to us in the morning.

Wearing a bubble suit.


I didn’t say anything like that. Why I would I do that, it is droplet spread like most folks have said since early in the process.


HEPA filters on the air return before it’s recirculated would be a good idea, and pay off down the road for less colds, allergies, etc. Of course, the money to keep the filters up to date would be a prime target evetytime someone wanted to shave the budget.


The John Hopkins Covid-19 tracker

OK, thanks Crysta.

After all of the (deserved) flak that the CDC has gotten this year, it’s kind of nice seeing them scoop one on the WHO.

For those who don’t believe in them, by the way, this is how non-zero-sum “competition” works.

Sorry, what?

I was criticizing her for butchering the name of my alma mater, by butchering her name in the same manner.

AC has been well-know as a problem for germ transmission for a long time, though it is most famous for transmitting Legionnaire’s Disease.

W/r to flying, it is probably safer to fly a plane than to sit in a closed restaurant with AC running, since modern airline filtration is very very good. That said, I wouldn’t fly an airline during the current crisis which doesn’t block off the middle seats. I had to endure a full flight on one leg a couple of weeks ago, it was a little frightening.

I would say more of a circumcision than a full butchering. Also, it is a natural mistake, since he might have been only the second person in history (after his grandfather) with that obviously-last-name as a first name (see the name’s history here).


Not a reply to you at all. I must have hit the wrong ‘reply’ button.

Who knew we would see the Great Filter appear before our very eyes!


I fail to see how it’s “much to do about nothing”. It’s not a time to panic, but it changes our understanding about transmission.

From the links you provided it seems the WHO was “catching up” on the aerosol transmission theory. So right there that implies that it’s new info.

Currently we know that droplets can carry the virus if someone coughs or sneezes etc directly on you, if you inhale droplets almost “directly” from a cough or sneeze or pick it up directly from droplets on a surface.

Airborne adds to that and implies that it can float about for a time and reach further than the range of a “direct contact”. The 6ft range is the distance coughs and sneezes spray and it’s still assumed that beyond that range we are somewhat “safe”.

This is from one of your own links…

“ What does it mean for airborne infection to be important indoors? Health care workers may need N95 masks all the time. Ventilation systems in schools, nursing homes, residences and businesses may need to minimize recirculating air, and add powerful new filters and UV lights.”

The fact that the virus could transmit further than “direct contact” and could float around a door or down a hallway even if it was now “only” 16-20 ft. That’s a big difference from the 6Ft. It would change things quite a bit if the study turns out to be right.


Wait - emerging? Evidence emerging?! I’ve been reading about this for literally months. It was damned clear, at least since that choir all got infected, that airborne transmission by aerosol was a significant factor here. I’ve not felt comfortable wearing anything less than an N95 mask in public, especially indoors.

That was always a given, yes - but droplets aren’t the same as an aerosol, which some researchers were previously denying, but is what they’re finally acknowledging is (more or less) the transmission method. “Droplets” quickly fall onto surfaces (and are primarily being discharged by coughing or sneezing); “aerosols” hang in the air for hours (and are produced by just speaking and breathing).

If it were just “droplets,” then it couldn’t, but with an aerosol, yeah, it absolutely can. The evidence absolutely points to transmission over that kind of distance and more - as the incident with the choir practice back in March showed, where 87% of a large group were infected by one person. And yes, they’re absolutely worried about it going through ducting.


The issue is not about droplet spread, but when those airborne droplets dry out, they become less heavy aerosols that can linger in the air for hours, and have much greater range than droplet spread.

That’s what the emerging data is showing, that aerosol spread is showing to be a greater issue than thought previously.



Which clearly means that airborne spread of COVID-19 won’t be a problem in the US, right?