The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has scrapped its advice on how the coronavirus can spread through the air.
It had originally posted an update to its COVID-19 guidance webpage which acknowledged the risk that the coronavirus can be transmitted to others through airborne particles that are released by infected people.
The agency had said last week the virus can transmit over a distance beyond six feet (1.8m), suggesting a heightened risk of contracting the virus indoors and emphasising the need for ventilation.
But in a quiet reversal, CDC’s website was edited on Tuesday morning (Australian time) to remove that information, saying “a draft version of proposed changes to these recommendations was posted in error”.
It now states COVID-19 is spread mainly between people who are in close contact – 1.8 metres – for a prolonged period.
More specifically, it states the coronavirus is spread “through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs, sneezes or talks”.
That was the CDC’s updated guidance before it took down its advice on airborne particles.
A notice on its website states the “CDC is currently updating its recommendations regarding airborne transmission of SARS-CoV-2″.
“Once this process has been completed, the updated language will be posted,” the agency said.
It comes as the COVID-19 death toll in the US reached 199,630 on Monday, by the far the highest number of any country.
The US, on a weekly average, is losing about 800 lives each day to the virus.
Back home, the national toll reached 851 on Monday.
‘Light at end of tunnel’ for Australia
Health experts say there is light at the end of the coronavirus tunnel as Australia recorded its lowest daily rise in new infections in over three months.
There were 16 new infections reported on Monday – 11 in Victoria, four in NSW and one in Queensland.
“This light at the end of the tunnel is getting closer every day,” Deputy Chief Medical Officer Nick Coatsworth told reporters in Canberra.
Dr Coatsworth said Victorian officials would take the numbers into account as they considered further lifting of restrictions.
“But patience, as always, is required,” he said.
Victoria reported two deaths, taking the national toll to 851.
Dr Coatsworth said he was concerned with a drop-off in testing rates.
“We can only ask Australians with even the most minimal of symptoms – even if you think you have hayfever – if you haven’t had a COVID-19 check you need to go and get tested,” Dr Coatsworth said.
Tracing taxi a priority
Meanwhile, a coronavirus infection in a Sydney taxi driver could delay South Australia lifting border restrictions with NSW.
SA Premier Steven Marshall has expressed concern about the case.
The state’s health officials have sought details from NSW ahead of a meeting on Tuesday to consider lifting the 14-day quarantine requirement.
He said a decision could now be delayed until Friday or even later.
NSW Health is urgently attempting to contact anyone who took trips with the Silver Service taxi driver who tested positive on Saturday and worked in Sydney’s west and southwest.
Anyone who was in his taxi between September 8 and 18 should monitor for symptoms.
NSW Health has identified a large number of people who rode with that driver, but nine passengers remain anonymous.
Plan for COVID-safe summer
Beachgoers will have to keep a towel length between themselves and others under the NSW government’s plan for a COVID-safe summer.
The plan encourages more outdoor dining and safe distancing will be marked out in parks and some public spaces from October.
It comes as NSW reported four new COVID-19 cases in the 24 hours to 8pm on Sunday, including three returned travellers in hotel quarantine and one which was locally acquired.
The locally acquired case had already been in self-isolation because they were a close contact of an infection linked to the Concord Hospital cluster.
There were 7765 tests in the latest reporting period, with Premier Gladys Berejiklian saying the dip in the testing numbers is a concern.
Opposition ups pressure to reopen Victoria
Pressure continues to mount on Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews to speed up his COVID-19 roadmap after the state notched back-to-back days of low case numbers.
Victoria recorded just 11 new cases on Monday – its lowest daily figure since June 16 – to follow up Sunday’s result of 14.
It dropped Melbourne’s 14-day case average to 34.4, well below the target of 50 to lift some virus restrictions from September 28.
But the premier has yet to confirm whether Melbourne will move to its next step on Monday, which will allow a staged return to school for some students and more workplaces to reopen.
“We will have more to say about that process later in the week,” Mr Andrews said.
Opposition Leader Michael O’Brien said Melburnians can’t afford to wait until October 26 when more onerous rules such as the 9pm-5am curfew are due to be repealed.
“These numbers dictate a faster, safer reopening,” Mr O’Brien said.
“The epidemiologists back it, the modelling backs it. Daniel Andrews needs to start listening to the experts and stop being a one-man show.”
There were two further coronavirus deaths on Monday, taking the state toll to 763 and the national figure to 851.
CMO says supply no factor in Victorian mask call
Victoria’s chief medical officer has rejected suggestions healthcare workers were denied personal protective equipment because of shortage concerns earlier in the COVID-19 pandemic.
The state’s PPE guidelines were updated in early August to allow more health workers to access N95 masks, which provide a greater level of protection from the virus.
Professor Andrew Wilson insists the change was guided by expert advice and evidence, despite leaked meeting notes obtained by the ABC suggesting supply was an issue earlier this year.
“We’ve never made any guideline that’s been impacted on by the supply,” he told reporters on Monday.
In the meeting with health department staff, unions and WorkSafe Victoria, Professor Wilson is reported to have said a request to provide more surgical masks to workers would have meant “going through one million masks a week”.
Victoria’s mask stockpile was at 3.2 million as of last Friday, he said, and no eligible health worker has gone wanting for an N95 mask.
Asked about the accusation of PPE theft inside aged care homes, Professor Wilson said he was not aware of any.
Newspoll finds voters support premiers on virus
The latest Newspoll shows almost two-thirds [62 per cent] of Victorians support Premier Daniel Andrews’ handling of the state’s second coronavirus outbreak.
The majority of 2068 voters polled between September 16 and 19 for The Australian approved of Mr Andrews’ actions despite a hotel quarantine bungle that unleashed a second wave of the virus.
Separately, 61 per cent of voters around Australia, including 57 per cent of Coalition voters, say the restrictions that locked Victorians at home and stopped them from travelling interstate, were appropriate.
About 35 per cent of Victorians thought Mr Andrews handled the pandemic poorly.
The poll also showed Queenslanders back Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk’s handling of COVID-19, with 68 per cent saying she is doing a good job.
Voters in both states endorsed Scott Morrison’s handling of the pandemic, with 77 per cent in Queensland and 71 per cent in Victoria rating the Prime Minister’s performance as “well”.
On restrictions, 39 per cent of voters around the country are now more concerned about harm to the economy and mental wellbeing than the risk of higher infection, compared to 20 per cent who held that view in July.
But 56 per cent remain concerned that moves to ease restrictions were too quick, risking the virus spreading further.
On Queensland’s hard border closures, 53 per cent of voters across the country say the level of restrictions is about right, while 37 per cent say they should be relaxed.