A prestigious scientific panel told the White House last 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 the National Academy of Sciences Standing Committee on Emerging Infectious Diseases and 21st Century Health Threats.
He said his letter was sent 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 six feet of each other. It spreads "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.
Fineberg said it's possible that aerosolized coronavirus droplets can hang in the air and potentially infect someone who walks by later. 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.
He added, however, that coronavirus is not as infectious as measles or tuberculosis.