COVID-19 sometimes is transmitted by exposure to airborne droplets that linger for minutes or hours at distances greater than six feet, according to new guidance released Monday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

According to published studies, droplets containing the SARS-CoV-2 virus can be transmitted at this distance or farther, or shortly after a COVID-19-positive person has left an area, the agency wrote in its “How COVID-19 Spreads” website page.  

“In these instances, transmission occurred in poorly ventilated and enclosed spaces that often involved activities that caused heavier breathing, like singing or exercise,” the guidance states. “Such environments and activities may contribute to the buildup of virus-carrying particles.”

Although the majority of COVID-19 infections occur due to close contact, there are some key takeaways for operators who wish to reduce their facility’s risk of distant, airborne transmission, said LeadingAge’s Jodi Eyigor, director of nursing home quality and policy, in a Monday call with members.  

These include:

  • Double down on masking and social distancing
  • Check with your building engineer about ventilation
  • Bring in fresh outdoor air as much as possible, or engage residents in outdoor activities (including outdoor visits, activities, and dining al fresco)
  • During room turnover, allow ample time for air exchange before entering the space to clean, to move in a new resident, or to hold visits