NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — The COVID-19 pandemic has caused a lot of confusion and disagreement among laypeople and even doctors and scientists.

Which drugs do or do not work, when do you put someone on a ventilator, are we going to get a vaccine, and when? But one thing we thought we could agree on was that coronavirus is spread through airborne droplets from a cough, sneeze or talking. Maybe not.

CBS2’s Dr. Max Gomez explains in his latest Max Minute that it depends on your definition of airborne.


For most people, any virus transmission through the air is airborne. But to the World Health Organization, airborne means microscopic particles called aerosols that can float and glide the length of a room. You can see how tiny particles stay suspended in the special simulations.

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That’s very different than the larger droplets that you can see fall to the ground quickly and why social distancing recommendations are to stay six feet apart. But, the WHO says big droplets are the primary way COVID-19 spreads.

But now, an open letter to the WHO from 239 international scientists outlines the evidence that smaller aerosol or airborne particles can also infect people and calls on the agency to revise its recommendations. Tiny aerosols are also likely why virus transmission is more common in crowded, poorly ventilated indoor spaces.

This does not mean that social distancing has to be 20 or 30 feet. But farther apart is better and outdoors is better. Plus, all sides agree that any face covering, be it paper, cloth or even a bandana blocks the vast majority of the virus from transmission, regardless of the droplet size. So please for all our sake, wear a mask.

For the top questions people have been asking about the coronavirus, visit, and go to to submit your question.


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