While it's well known at this point that COVID-19 spreads from person to person via coughing and sneezing, it's now been suggested by health professionals that it could be spreading through simply talking and breathing, too. In a letter sent to the White House by a prestigious scientific panel, it was warned that widespread mask usage might be necessary to effectively stop the spread of the virus.
"While the current [coronavirus] specific research is limited, the results of available studies are consistent with aerosolization of virus from normal breathing," said National Academy of Sciences chairman Dr. Harvey Fineberg, CNN reports. As a result of the research, he said he will now wear a mask when he shops for groceries. "I'm not going to wear a surgical mask, because clinicians need those. But I have a nice western-style bandana I might wear. Or I have a balaclava. I have some pretty nice options."
In the letter he wrote, he added that "currently available research supports the possibility that [coronavirus] could be spread via bioaerosols generated directly by patients' exhalation." The CDC has said that the virus spreads from person to person within six feet "through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes," but Fineberg has suggested that even droplets produced just by breathing could also spread it.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, who has been at the front of the White House's coronavirus task force, said that the idea of mask useage on a wider scale across the country was under "very active discussion."
The letter from Fineberg additionally said that research has showed the virus can linger in the air, especially when doctors and nurses remove protective equipment. The University of Nebraska's research added that "genetic material from the virus" could be found in the rooms of patients more than six feet apart. Despite this, Fineberg has said it's not as infectious as measles or tuberculosis.
"If you generate an aerosol of the virus with no circulation in a room, it's conceivable that if you walk through later, you could inhale the virus," he said. "But if you're outside, the breeze will likely disperse it."