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New Designation: COVID-19 Is An Airborne Disease

Medically reviewed by Jezreel Esguerra, MD · General Practitioner

Written by Lorraine Bunag, R.N. · Updated Mar 27, 2023

    New Designation: COVID-19 Is An Airborne Disease

    With the New York State Commissioner of Health deeming COVID-19 an airborne disease, Governor Kathy Hochul puts the NY HERO Act in effect. How can this new designation and Act help save lives? Find out here.

    What Is the New York HERO Act?

    The NY HERO Act became law in May this year. It stands for Health and Essential Rights Act. It aims to “protect employees against exposure and disease during a future airborne infectious disease outbreak.”

    Basically, the HERO Act requires employers in New York “to implement certain safety standards and adopt a prevention plan to protect against the spread of airborne infectious diseases in the workplace.”

    And since the Commissioner of Health designated COVID-19 as an airborne disease, the HERO Act finally took effect.  

    Under this law, the Department of Labor, in consultation with the Department of Health, has designed the following:

    • A new Airborne Infectious Disease Exposure Prevention Standard
    • A Model Airborne Infectious Disease Exposure Prevention Plan
    • Various industry-specific model plans for the prevention of airborne infectious disease.

    Governor Hochul underscored that employers have the choice to adapt the plans designed by the Department of Labor. O they may also create a plan of their own, provided it meets or exceeds the minimum requirements.

    What Experts Say About the Airborne Transmission of SARS-CoV-2

    The suspicions surrounding COVID-19’s airborne nature started in 2020, but it wasn’t until mid this year that the World Health Organization and US Center for Disease Control consider the idea.

    From WHO’s Updated Q&A

    In a Q&A page updated last April 30, the WHO said the following:

    • “A person can be infected when aerosols or droplets containing the virus are inhaled or come directly into contact with the eyes, nose, or mouth.”
    • “Aerosols remain suspended in the air or travel farther than 1 metre (long-range).”

    Before, there was no mention of aerosols, which are essentially smaller droplets pointing to airborne transmission.

    From CDC’S Scientific Brief

    In a brief updated last May 7, 2021, the CDC said:

    “Transmission of SARS-CoV-2 from inhalation of virus in the air farther than six feet from an infectious source can occur.”

    You see, another characteristic of airborne transmission is when people can contract the virus even if they are more than 1 meter away from the source of infection.

    COVID-19 is an Airborne Disease: How Does It Change Things?

    If COVID-19 is an airborne disease, how does it change things for the public?

    The European Commission’s science and knowledge service said COVID-19’S designation as an airborne disease has significant repercussions on health interventions to break the chain of infection.

    Some of the things we might need to reconsider include:

    • The type of mask we must wear indoors.
    • An airborne transmission means keeping a distance of one meter from each other might not be enough to stop the spread of infection.
    • Ventilation. In a poorly ventilated room, keeping a distance of two meters from each other may still not be enough.

    While many people can easily change the type of mask they wear, the other two considerations may be difficult to follow.

    For instance, keeping more than a meter distance means fewer people indoors, significantly decreasing the room’s capacity. Likewise, ensuring good ventilation may require changing the establishments’ engineering controls.

    Key Takeaways

    Along with the CDC and WHO, the city of New York Commissioner of Health also acknowledges COVID-19 as an airborne disease. For this reason, government Kathy Hochul puts the HERO Act into effect, requiring employers to create plans that better protect workers from the highly contagious SARS-CoV-2.

    This can save lives considering employers need to implement plans that specifically respond to an airborne disease.

    Learn more about Coronavirus here


    Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

    Medically reviewed by

    Jezreel Esguerra, MD

    General Practitioner

    Written by Lorraine Bunag, R.N. · Updated Mar 27, 2023

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