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10 percent or 0.1 percent?
According to a May 11 New York Times report, it turns out the risks of outdoor transmission of COVID-19 may have been wildly overstated.
A month ago, a new CDC guidance on mask-wearing indicated the ratio of outdoor to indoor transmission of the virus was 90 percent to “under 10 percent.” News organizations picked up on the 10-percent number.
But that percentage “seems to be a huge exaggeration,” many epidemiologists say, according to NYT reporter David Leonhardt.
Leonhardt said the misleading number came from estimates of only a fraction of outdoor situations involving close conversations and crowded situations. But the total number of COVID cases stemming from outdoor transmissions was closer to 0.1 percent than the 10 percent figure mainstream media sources have been citing.
That 10-percent number “seems to be a huge exaggeration,” according to Dr. Muge Cevik, a virologist at the University of St. Andrews.
While reporting on the huge error, Leonhardt took pains to try to shield the CDC from blame. As The Times report said,
“This isn’t just a gotcha math issue… It is an example of how the C.D.C. is struggling to communicate effectively, and leaving many people confused about what’s truly risky. C.D.C. officials have placed such a high priority on caution that many Americans are bewildered by the agency’s long list of recommendations.”

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