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CDC warns of airborne transmission of COVID-19, then quickly reverses guidance

Coronavirus

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — After publishing a new warning this weekend about how the coronavirus spreads through the air, the CDC backpedaled Monday, calling the update an “error.”

The rescinded guidance warned about airborne transmission of COVID-19, spreading from something as simple as talking via tiny particles that remain suspended in the air. Citing “growing evidence,” the aerosol particles would not require close contact with, or coughing/sneezing from, an infected person to spread.

The CDC revised its online guidance Monday to remove the warning over airborne transmission. A disclaimer published at the top of its “How COVID-19 Spreads” section now reads “a draft version of proposed changes to these recommendations was posted in error to the agency’s official website.”

The CDC says it is currently updating its recommendations regarding airborne transmission of SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19).

Public health experts say the guidance, had it not been retracted, would have made an even stronger case for masks at a time when anti-mask sentiment continues to grow stronger.

The reversal only creates further confusion as some local leaders debate the need for continued mask mandates.

“What do you make of this sort of flip flop?” 8 On Your Side asked of Dr. Tom Unnasch, a professor at USF’s College of Public Health.

“This is just one more example of unclear and inconsistent information being provided by the CDC,” Unnasch answered. He fears the reversal is rooted in politics.

The mounting pressure against local mask mandates could be felt last Thursday during public comment at the virtual Hillsborough Board of County Commissioners meeting.

“Remove the mask mandate, stop the tyranny,” exclaimed one caller.

“My family, we’re hardly spending any money out because we’re not going to deal with this mask stuff,” said another.

Two commissioners, Sandra Murman and Stacy White voiced support to discuss relaxing the mandate when the board meets again on Oct. 1.

“I do think we should have a serious discussion about the mask mandate,” Murman said.

“I very much welcome that conversation,” White said.

At the state level, speculation grows if Governor Ron DeSantis is considering taking action himself. Last week, all Florida counties were required to submit detailed information about any local COVID-19 orders still in place and what penalties, if any, they carry.

Despite mixed messaging from federal and state authorities, Unnasch says the science is clear, as should the choice be for local leaders.

“Mask wearing is the most important and significant thing we can do at this point in time,” he said.

Health department data presented to the board Thursday showed the county’s 14-day positivity rate at 6.2 percent, and the seven day average at 5 percent.

The Pinellas County Commission declined to schedule a vote to repeal its mask mandate when it met last week. Pasco leaders are expected to have a similar discussion this week.

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