Addressing the airborne spread of COVID-19
A report released earlier this week suggested that COVID-19 may be spread
through microscopic respiratory droplets up to several meters in enclosed
indoor spaces. While informative for ongoing research on airborne spread
of the virus, the report is not conclusive and has not changed predominate
thinking or protocols around infection management and prevention.
Current guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention does
not recognize that SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, is routinely
transmitted through minuscule aerosols, but rather predominantly through
large respiratory droplets, which are released into the air when a person
talks, coughs or sneezes but fall quickly to the ground.
What we know
Our Infection Prevention experts reviewed and analyzed the article. They
concluded that the findings do not bring to light new information. Rather,
it reiterates what we already think we know about COVID-19:
- We know that most viruses have the potential for airborne spread, and this
does occur at times and in specific situations.
- We also know that COVID-19 is primarily spread by respiratory droplets
unlike other diseases such as tuberculosis and chicken pox, which we know
can be spread more easily through airborne transmission. Otherwise we
would be seeing much higher rates of transmission.
We continue to learn more about COVID-19 every day. Our clinical and scientific
experts are routinely assessing new information and data to help improve
our standards of care. As with any virus of infectious disease in an evolving
world and health care environment, Providence and our family of organizations
continually assesses and adapts for the protection of our caregivers and patients.
This article serves as a good reminder that we should continue doing what
we’re doing to prevent spread, using existing infection prevention
practices. It also highlights the following recommendations that should
be considered whenever possible:
- Provide sufficient and effective ventilation (supply clean outdoor air,
minimize recirculating air) particularly in public buildings, workplace
environments, schools, hospitals, and senior care facilities.
- Supplement general ventilation with airborne infection controls such as
local exhaust, high efficiency air filtration, and germicidal ultraviolet
lights where appropriate and possible.
- Avoid overcrowding, particularly in public transport and public buildings.
Learn more about the claims in the article and a read a critical review
by our experts.