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Local doctors say 'don't let your guard down' after CDC says COVID-19 can go airborne

The agency says small droplets and particles from the virus can stay in the air for minutes to hours and infect anyone 6-12 feet away.

TAMPA, Fla — The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has changed its guidelines on how coronavirus spreads once again.

This webpage updated late Monday night now says "COVID-19 can sometimes be spread by airborne transmission." Small droplets and particles from someone who's infected can stay in the air for minutes to hours.

“We're slowly catching up with reality. The good science is creeping into the real world,” said Dr. Jay Wolfson with USF Public Health.

Wolfson said the CDC is finally acknowledging the coronavirus can spread through the air. Just two weeks ago, the agency pulled the same guidance off its website. 

“They are recognizing the value of true distancing, and exercising extreme caution, certainly wearing masks and not getting too close to groups of people you don't know,” Wolfson said.

“The drop of nuclei, or the large drops, kind of fall on the ground and the vaporized aerosol are the ones that hang in the air like smoke. It kind of hangs out in the air there and can hang out for minutes, and sometimes hours,” Wolfson continued. 

Those particles can get you sick even if you're 6-12 feet away. Wolfson says large events like the Stanley Cup celebration for the Tampa Bay Lightning and the nomination of a new Supreme Court justice could be considered breeding grounds for the virus.

“I think it was a political, politically driven, delay. The science has been known for months,” Wolfson said,

While the CDC's guidance may change, doctors say COVID-19 safety precautions won't.

“Maybe the guidance doesn't have to change too much. We're gonna have to think about certain activities and whether or not they're really necessary,” Dr. Jill Roberts with USF Public Health said.

The infectious disease expert says it's up to local governments to continue enforcing safety measures

“We should not take away from this, that we can take our masks off or our masks don't work, because the majority of the spread is actually probably droplets,” Roberts said.

Roberts says until we get a vaccine, our best protection against this virus is a mask. She's concerned that some mask ordinances have been repealed, including those in Manatee County and the city of Lakeland

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