When the virus becomes suspended in droplets smaller than five micrometers ―known as aerosols― it can stay suspended for about a half-hour, researchers said, before drifting down and settling on surfaces where it can linger for hours (in the study’s experimental setup, the virus stayed suspended for three hours, but it would drift down much sooner under most conditions). The finding on aerosol in particular is inconsistent with the World Health Organization’s position that the virus is not transported by air.
For weeks experts have maintained that the virus is not airborne. But in fact, it can travel through the air and stay suspended for a long period of time.
In this way, the virus does not linger in the air at high enough levels to be a risk to most people who are not physically near an infected person. But the procedures health care workers use to care for infected patients are likely to generate aerosols.
Link to the paper: https://doi.org/10.1056/NEJMc2004973
Editorial Disclaimer: information published during the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic may be updated frequently to reflect the dynamic nature of current understanding.