COVID-19 is airborne. Why is this so controversial?

It was mid-December when some of Ontario’s top doctors publicly told reporters that COVID-19 is airborne.

For nearly two years public health officials in Canada have shied away from using that term to describe the transmissibility of the novel coronavirus, focusing instead on preventing the disease from spreading via droplets.

Throughout 2021, numerous health agencies and practitioners have called on public health officials to acknowledge that COVID-19 is also spread by aerosols, which can remain in the air and travel a short distance in unventilated areas. One by one, provinces and local public health units began to publicly acknowledge that, in light of the highly transmissible Omicron variant, that aerosols are likely playing a part in how the disease spreads.

This fact led to Ontario’s Science Advisory Table advising people to ditch single layer cloth masks for higher-grade personal protective equipment.

In Life Unmasked’s first episode of 2022, the team speaks with two experts to find out what it actually means for a disease to be airborne.

Raymond Tellier, a medical microbiologist and associate professor at McGill University, joins the team to run through the science behind droplets versus aerosols while Colleen Derkatch, an associate professor of rhetoric at Ryerson University, discusses why officials may have been hesitant to use the term “airborne” earlier than necessary.

Life Unmasked airs first on the iHeart app every Tuesday morning before becoming available on other streaming platforms. If you have questions for the podcast team, or an idea for an episode, please email lifeunmasked@bellmedia.ca.