March 12, 2020—Up to this point, it has been thought that the novel coronavirus is not airborne, but according to The Hill, a new coronavirus study indicates that it may be possible for the virus to survive in the air for several hours. The federally funded study, which was performed by scientists at several major institutions, is currently waiting to be peer reviewed by researchers at Princeton University, the University of California-Los Angeles, and the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

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The results of the study indicate that the virus causing the COVID-19 outbreak may be able to survive suspended in the air for “up to 3 hours post aerosolization,” according to The Hill. If true, this means that when a sick person coughs and then leaves the room, they may be leaving the virus hanging in the air of the room where it could potentially remain viable and infectious to others for several hours. Additionally, larger infected droplets from a cough or sneeze will fall onto surfaces where the virus may be able to survive for up to three days, according to the study.

The results of the study are still awaiting review by other scientists, but if accepted, these tests suggest that the virus is more easily transmitted than previously understood as it is able to be carried through the air or contaminate a solid surface for several days, infecting people who may never have direct contact with an infected person.

This new information about the virus comes as the World Health Organization (WHO) officially declares COVID-19 a pandemic. According to a statement by the WHO, this is the first pandemic caused by a coronavirus, but WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus asserts that even though COVID-19 is now considered a pandemic, there is still time to take action and limit the spread and the worst effects of the virus.