Experts Express Concern Over Airborne Spread of More Contagious Coronavirus

Prevention efforts must be increased before mutant strains cause a resurgence

Robert Roy Britt
Medium Coronavirus Blog
4 min readFeb 17, 2021

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Illustration: mathisworks/Getty

With more contagious and perhaps deadlier strains of the coronavirus circulating, the Biden administration should forcefully acknowledge that airborne spread is a primary means of transmission, then take immediate action to strengthen measures to reduce risk, especially in schools and workplaces, according to a letter signed by 13 leading scientists and physicians with expertise in infectious diseases, aerosol transmission, and occupational health. The letter was sent to U.S. officials leading the pandemic response.

“It will be months before most of the population is vaccinated,” the letter states. “In the meantime, more transmissible variants are projected to become the dominant strains by March and may pose significant challenges to the efficacy of first-generation vaccines and monoclonal antibodies,” which are among the most effective Covid-19 treatments. “While Covid-19 infections and deaths have started to decline in recent weeks, they remain at a very high level and, unless strengthened precautionary measures are implemented, the new variants will likely bring an explosion in new infections.”

The letter was addressed to Rochelle Walensky, MD, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; Jeffrey Zients, coordinator of the president’s Covid-19 pandemic response; and Anthony Fauci, MD, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

“The federal government and CDC must clearly acknowledge that inhalation of aerosols, produced simply by speaking, is a major factor leading to the spread of Covid-19,” one of the signatories, Kimberly Prather, PhD, told the Coronavirus Blog via email. Prather is director of the Center for Aerosol Impacts on Chemistry of the Environment in the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California, San Diego.

“Once this is acknowledged, clear guidance for effective controls, such as improved filtration and ventilation, can be provided to protect high-risk workers and the public while safely reopening schools and businesses,” Prather says. “The federal government also needs to…

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Robert Roy Britt
Medium Coronavirus Blog

Editor of Aha! and Wise & Well on Medium + the Writer's Guide at writersguide.substack.com. Author of Make Sleep Your Superpower: amazon.com/dp/B0BJBYFQCB