As global COVID-19 deaths topped 534,000 over the weekend, scientists from 32 countries signed a letter to the World Health Organization urging them to rethink their guidance on how the virus spreads.
Russia previously held the spot for the third-largest amount of cases, but this weekend India reported an increase of 24,000 cases in 24 hours, pushing them to 697,400 total and the third spot globally, according to AFP.
Some scientists have pointed to a lack of face mask regulations in certain nations as a contributing factor to the spread. Scientists say that simply wearing face masks in public can significantly reduce the transmission of COVID-19.
Holger Schünemann, an epidemiologist at McMaster University, told NPR, “What this evidence supports is that, if there is a policy around using face masks in place, it does actually come with a fairly large effect.”
In the United States, there is no federal statute mandating that people wear masks in public. Likewise, in Brazil, President Jair Bolsonaro vetoed a plan to require people to wear masks in shops, schools, and churches.
New Evidence of Airborne Transmission
Airborne transmission of COVID-19 refers to the spread of the virus through particles smaller than five microns that can remain in the air for long periods of time.
Since the start of the pandemic, the WHO has held that airborne transmission of COVID-19 is extremely limited, and may be possible in certain medical settings where aerosols are used, though not in a setting most people encounter on a daily basis.
This weekend, however, 239 scientists from 32 countries signed a letter to the WHO urging them to rethink their guidance and acknowledge that COVID-19 can spread pervasively through these small airborne droplets.
We ask WHO to lead in stopping spread by aerosols – microscopic droplets that can be inhaled. That is why we must wear face masks, open windows, and avoid crowded indoor spaces with singing and loud talking. Thanks @kprather88 @linseymarr @UMDPublicHealth https://t.co/K80Z3YqsxE
— Don Milton (@Don_Milton) July 6, 2020
The letter, set to be released later this week, notes that these small particles can linger in a room and infect people when inhaled, even in small quantities.
The WHO has pushed back on the idea of airborne transmission of coronavirus since the start of the pandemic, and this weekend a spokesperson for the organization told the New York Times that despite the letter signed by so many experts worldwide, “There is a strong debate on this.”