Is COVID-19 Airborne?

COVID-19 spreads through contact with infected water droplets caused by coughing and sneezing.

You are probably well schooled by now in how you can catch COVID-19. The new coronavirus causing the pandemic spreads from person to person. Many believe it does this primarily through infected water droplets that come from a sick person’s nose or mouth. 

This is how it happens. For example, when someone sneezes or coughs, the COVID-19 riddled droplets can fall on nearby surfaces, or on the infected person’s hands. When this person then touches shared surfaces such as doorknobs and light switches, they spread the virus from themselves to that object.

If you then touch that same lightswitch soon thereafter, and then you touch your face by rubbing your eyes, or by covering your mouth, you too can now have the virus move inside your body, and you become infected. But can you catch COVID-19 just by breathing in bad air? What if you are walking down a public path, (which is still permitted in most places as long as you space yourself about six feet (two meters) apart), and a person across the park with the coronavirus sneezes? Will their illness drift to you in a cloud of ickiness and cause you to fall sick?

Some Say Yes

Here is what the experts are saying. Some say yes, maybe, and others, probably not. There is so much we still have to learn about SARS-CoV-2, the virus causing COVID-19.

According to Harvard Health Publishing, a study done by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases' Laboratory of Virology in the Division of Intramural Research in Montana has shown you can get COVID-19 through airborne particles. 

It was found that a variety of coronaviruses can remain alive in the air for up to three hours. Researchers discovered this by using something called a nebulizer to blow coronaviruses into the air. It sounds like something straight out of Ghostbusters but it really did take place. The scientists then measured how long the viruses stayed in the air. Three hours was the breaking point. 

Others Say No

According to WHO, COVID-19 is not airborne. Photo by Fusion Medical Animation on Unsplash

Many in the health field debate the results of this study, however. The World Health Organization (WHO) has gone so far as to claim the new coronavirus is NOT airborne.  How the results in the study translate into real-world situations is uncertain, said Saskia Popescu of George Mason University to The Atlantic. The study did not replicate what really happens when you are walking down the street and mingling with others, as well as walking or jogging on a windy day.


So, what can we believe? What is known is this. Some infectious diseases definitely ARE airborne. This means that dried out bits of the viruses, called aerosols, can hang out in the air after an infected person expels them. They drift around, infecting more people. Viruses like the one that causes chickenpox are known to do this, and this makes them highly contagious.

The WHO says they feel COVID-19 spreads mainly when infected water droplets directly onto people’s faces and hands. If you find yourself in an enclosed area with someone who has the new coronavirus however, it could be that you could catch it through airborne aerosols, as depicted in the study, we feel. 


Wearing a mask can protect you against COVID-19. Photo by Mika Baumeister on Unsplash

What about wearing a mask? Some say it will, and others feel you don't need to bother. One thing is for certain: if you wear a mask, it will likely not hurt you, as long as you do not fidget with it and touch your face while donning one. It could protect you from getting COVID-19. You cannot stay inside forever. Our advice is not clinical but based on common sense. Get your fresh air, but simply stay away from crowded parks while you do it. 

About the Author

A prior educator with a background in the arts, Victoria Simpson has a passion for communicating her ideas through writing. You can find her picture book, Eating I Forget, on Amazon. Her articles and webcopy have been published on countless websites including, Autoguide, eBay, Digital Home and Iremia Skincare, among others. She is now excited to be contributing to World Atlas. 


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