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Is the Coronavirus in the Air You Breathe?

Updated on March 31, 2020

In the air you breathe?

Measles is one of the most dangerous viruses. It is spread by all the usual means of contact, coughing, and by lingering in the air for hours where the person infected was or is still in the room. The virus is just "in the air" and should a non-infected person breathe the same air, they will get it. Luckily, we have a vaccine for it. But in many parts of the world, it remains highly contagious.


The CDC and WHO health organizations have been fairly consistent that this new virus pandemic spreads by small droplets that are breathed in when an infected person coughs, sneezes, and a non-infected person is with 3-6 ft (1-2 m) that breathes in the same air. The virus can remain contagious on surfaces for 1-2 hours, so a person who makes contact with the surface could get it. It's all a bit scary and for the health community, a stiff learning curve about how it spreads. Some, now feel that the safe distance should be lengthened to 6-12 ft (2-3 m). This because the virus may actually travel further than what was previously thought.

WHO and CDC are now becoming more suspicious about how the virus may spread, which more and more point to spreading with coughing or sneezing. In one study, a large church choir practiced on March 10. In the weeks that followed, 75% of the members came down with flu-like symptoms and two died. The choir members were aware of COVID-19, and each member used the hand sanitizer and nobody shared their sheet music. Choir members kept their distance from one another and no one recalls any coughing or sneezing during the session. At the time, none of the members were known to be sick.

Despite this, 75% tested positive for the virus. So, now experts are starting to agree that perhaps the virus can just linger in the air for up to three hours. Singing may spread it because air is expelled and if the person is infected, the virus shoots into the air inside that space, even if asymptomatic. Perhaps, it is likely, that this is why other choirs in synagogues and in South Korea, rapidly spread it. It was the SK church group that was first quarantined in that country and from there is spread.

While there is no proof about the ability that this virus can linger in the air (like measles) for 1-3 hours, because of the unknown, one should expect guidelines to change about social distancing and about wearing a simple mask when going out in the public to stores. When going into outside for exercise, there is no need because of atmospheric conditions and space. The danger of lingering viruses are in enclosed areas like stores.


  1. When in a store, wear a mask and keep 3-5 ft. away from others, especially if there is coughing or sneezing.
  2. Wear tight fitting gloves because the virus can be on the surface of most things.
  3. If your in a space where someone coughs\sneezes, quickly move away from them and do not enter the air space they had occupied. The virus might be lingering in the air.
  4. The virus may be circulated in the air through ventilation systems or fans in the room. It only takes one person with it (whether they know it or not) to put it into the air in the immediate area they occupy. If you enter that space, you may breath it in unknowingly.
  5. At this stage, presume the virus can linger in the air, like measles. While coughing or sneezing does spread it, as the choirs experienced, just singing or exhaling it into the immediate air, may also spread.


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