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

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

Posted: Apr 2, 2020 9:58 AM
Updated: Apr 2, 2020 12:15 PM


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.'

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

(Widget updates once daily at 8 p.m. ET)

Confirmed Cases: 32437

Reported Deaths: 2030
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Marion9371546
Lake3347170
Cass15867
Allen135366
St. Joseph121834
Hendricks113567
Hamilton112391
Johnson1092104
Elkhart107028
Madison58259
Porter49521
Bartholomew48634
Clark47141
LaPorte41523
Tippecanoe3803
Howard37620
Jackson3681
Delaware35936
Hancock32327
Shelby32121
Floyd31539
Boone29335
Morgan27024
Vanderburgh2532
Montgomery23317
White2288
Decatur22431
Clinton2221
Grant19521
Noble19221
Harrison18821
Dubois1852
Henry1709
Greene16824
Warrick16528
Dearborn16421
Monroe16211
Vigo1507
Lawrence14623
Miami1391
Putnam1347
Jennings1284
Orange12422
Scott1183
Ripley1136
Franklin1068
Kosciusko971
Carroll932
Daviess8416
Marshall801
Steuben802
Wayne755
Newton7410
Wabash732
Fayette714
Jasper621
LaGrange622
Washington521
Fulton471
Jay460
Randolph453
Rush452
Jefferson421
Whitley412
Clay411
Pulaski400
Owen341
Sullivan331
DeKalb331
Brown331
Starke313
Perry260
Wells260
Huntington262
Knox250
Benton250
Tipton241
Crawford230
Blackford202
Switzerland190
Fountain182
Parke180
Spencer171
Posey160
Gibson142
Ohio130
Warren121
Adams121
Vermillion100
Martin90
Union80
Pike60
Unassigned0159

Illinois Coronavirus Cases

(Widget updates once daily at 7 p.m. CT)

Confirmed Cases: 114306

Reported Deaths: 5083
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Cook745213455
Lake7845270
DuPage7350347
Kane5947162
Will5279264
Winnebago200152
McHenry147569
St. Clair103573
Kankakee80843
Kendall73619
Rock Island63823
Champaign5807
Madison54457
Boone41016
Sangamon33727
DeKalb3343
Randolph2644
Jackson24210
McLean21513
Out of IL2051
Stephenson1942
Ogle1932
Macon18919
Peoria1888
Clinton17817
Union1437
LaSalle14013
Whiteside13410
Iroquois1314
Coles11912
Warren1130
Unassigned1100
Jefferson10116
Knox940
Monroe9311
Grundy882
McDonough837
Lee761
Tazewell693
Cass680
Henry670
Williamson572
Marion500
Jasper457
Adams441
Macoupin431
Perry410
Pulaski410
Montgomery391
Vermilion371
Morgan341
Christian334
Jo Daviess310
Livingston312
Douglas260
Fayette203
Ford201
Jersey201
Washington180
Woodford182
Mason170
Menard170
Mercer160
Shelby161
Bureau151
Hancock150
Carroll142
Franklin120
Piatt120
Schuyler120
Crawford110
Fulton110
Bond101
Brown100
Clark100
Cumberland100
Logan100
Moultrie100
Wayne91
Alexander80
Henderson80
Johnson70
Massac70
Saline70
Effingham61
Greene50
Marshall50
De Witt40
Lawrence40
Richland30
Stark30
Clay20
Edwards20
Gallatin20
Hamilton20
Wabash20
White20
Calhoun10
Hardin10
Pike10
Pope10
Putnam10
Edgar00
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