Is the Coronavirus Airborne? Here's What We Know.

While tiny viral particles might travel through the air, it's unclear whether they could make someone else sick

US Surgeon General Jerome Adams
Photo by MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty Images

One reason why measles — a notoriously contagious disease — is so difficult to contain is because its infectious viral particles can linger in the air for up to two hours. Can the coronavirus do the same?

It's a question health officials appear to be grappling with: On Thursday, the San Francisco Department of Public Health said people must wear masks if they are within 30 feet of someone not in their household, a far greater distance than the widely recommended 6 feet of social distancing. Meanwhile, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website reads, "It is unknown how long the air inside a room occupied by someone with confirmed COVID-19 remains potentially infectious."

While scientists say it is possible that the coronavirus can drift through the air, many note there's no evidence these tiny bits of virus are enough to make people sick.

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