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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 9:36 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.'

California Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 250514

Reported Deaths: 6315
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Los Angeles1078063457
Riverside19450479
Orange15778360
San Diego15696387
San Bernardino13676269
Imperial6979105
Alameda6472140
Fresno562677
Kern510080
Santa Clara4849160
Tulare4627136
San Joaquin447455
San Francisco377650
Sacramento355969
San Mateo3441108
Contra Costa343279
Santa Barbara326129
Ventura324047
Marin271019
Kings258332
Stanislaus239144
Monterey179115
Solano147625
Merced127211
Sonoma126710
Placer78611
San Luis Obispo7012
Yolo58324
Madera5665
Santa Cruz4173
Napa3444
San Benito2572
Lassen2340
Butte2063
El Dorado2060
Sutter2063
Humboldt1444
Shasta1354
Nevada1231
Glenn1220
Yuba1031
Tehama881
Lake850
Mendocino850
Colusa700
Calaveras530
Del Norte511
Tuolumne430
Mono411
Inyo331
Siskiyou310
Mariposa271
Amador260
Plumas110
Alpine20
Trinity20
Sierra10
Unassigned00
Chico
Few Clouds
93° wxIcon
Hi: 96° Lo: 66°
Feels Like: 93°
Oroville
Clear
87° wxIcon
Hi: 97° Lo: 66°
Feels Like: 87°
Paradise
Few Clouds
93° wxIcon
Hi: 89° Lo: 67°
Feels Like: 93°
Chester
Clear
69° wxIcon
Hi: 77° Lo: 52°
Feels Like: 69°
Red Bluff
Clear
86° wxIcon
Hi: 97° Lo: 66°
Feels Like: 86°
Willows
Few Clouds
93° wxIcon
Hi: 99° Lo: 64°
Feels Like: 93°
Today was hot and tomorrow will be as well. But slightly below average temperatures move in as we see a dip in the jet stream.
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