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We Know It Is In The Air,’ Local Scientist Reacts To Changing CDC COVID-19 Guidance

A sign requiring the use of masks to prevent the spread of COVID-19 is pictur...

Photo by KPBS Staff

Above: A sign requiring the use of masks to prevent the spread of COVID-19 is pictured at a beach in Del Mar, June 29, 2020.

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On Monday, the Centers for Disease Control removed language about the spread of the coronavirus through aerosol particles from its website, information they had just posted Friday. A renowned UC San Diego atmospheric chemist explains what science believes about aerosols and the coronavirus on KPBS Midday Edition.

Aired: September 22, 2020 | Transcript

On Monday morning, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention deleted a section of its website describing how the coronavirus spreads. It removed language stating the virus could spread beyond a distance of six feet via airborne transmission and that indoor ventilation is key to protecting against it.

Jay Butler, the CDC’s deputy director for infectious disease, told the Washington Post that the information was posted in error and had not been technically reviewed.

This was the third time since March that the CDC made major revisions to its published information or guidelines about the coronavirus.

To find out what scientists think and what the evidence shows about the spread of the virus via minute aerosol particles or larger droplets — or both — KPBS Midday Edition talked with Kim Prather, distinguished chair in atmospheric chemistry at UC San Diego and Scripps Institution of Oceanography.

"We all agree. It is in the air. We know it is in the air," she said.

Prather also offered a correction to a recent Los Angeles Times story in which she was reported to have said that the beach was one of the most dangerous places to be right now. She said her quote was taken out of context and that she was referring to people crowding together at the beach and not wearing masks. She also said she was referring to a research project she is currently conducting in Imperial Beach that looks at whether viruses make their way into the ocean and into the air.

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