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Hundreds of scientists write letter to WHO claiming coronavirus is airborne: NYT

A group of 239 scientists representing 32 countries are said to be preparing to ask the World Health Organization (WHO) to revise its recommendations for the novel coronavirus due to evidence it says supports the claim that the disease is airborne .

Scientists are expected to publish an open letter making the request in a scientific journal next week, according to the New York Times. The letter is expected to offer evidence that supports the position that smaller particles of the coronavirus can travel through the air and infect people.

The WHO has maintained that COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, is mainly transmitted by large respiratory droplets that fall to the ground after being evacuated through a sneeze or cough. The agency said the virus is spread primarily by person-to-person contact and by indirect contact with surfaces in the immediate environment of an infected person.

A segment of the scientific community says evidence shows that the virus is carried in the air and can infect individuals when inhaled, the Times reported, noting that small particles can travel quickly after a sneeze. The expired droplets of the virus can travel more gradually the length of a room, some scientists say.

Airborne transmission would become an important factor in response efforts. Masks might be needed in all indoor settings, whether or not social distancing is maintained. Healthcare workers would also likely need N95 masks that can filter out tiny particles of coronavirus.

Benedetta Allegranzi, technical manager of infection control for the WHO, told The Times that there was still a lack of strong evidence on airborne transmission.

“Especially in the past two months, we have repeatedly stated that we consider airborne transmission as possible but certainly not supported by strong or even clear evidence,” she said. “There is a heated debate on this. “

A WHO spokesperson told The Hill that the agency is “aware of the article and is reviewing its contents with our technical experts.”

The letter is expected to arrive as parts of the world, including the United States, experience an increase in coronavirus cases and hospitalizations due to the disease. WHO reported over 200,000 cases of the virus Saturday, marking a new record of infections in a 24-hour period.

As of Sunday, health officials had reported more than 11 million cases of COVID-19 and an estimated 530,000 deaths from it worldwide, according to a Johns Hopkins University database.

UPDATE July 6 at 8:11 a.m.