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CDC Flip-Flops On COVID Guidance 'Paint A Very Bad Picture Of What's Going On', UC Doctor Warns

SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX 5) -- For the second time in as many months, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has reversed course on a major announcement regarding the coronavirus.

On Friday, media outlets noticed a significant change to the CDC's official website that stated "COVID-19 most commonly spreads through respiratory droplets or small particles, such as those in aerosols."

The change was a significant departure from the agency's previous position that COVID-19 was spread primarily through larger, heavier droplets that fell to the ground and traveled no more than six feet.

By Monday morning, about 72 hours after the initial posting, the CDC retracted the statement on aerosols, saying it was a "draft" and posted "in error."

"It's poorly written. The bottom line is aerosol transmission possible but not the main way that spreads," CDC spokesman Tom Skinner said to CBS News.

Dr. John Swartzberg, an infectious disease specialist at the University of California Berkeley has been reading the CDC bulletins and reports for 50 years. Swartzberg said the CDC's rigorous vetting standards and layers of checks and balances mean mistakes of this magnitude rare.

"Retracting it over the weekend, all of these things together, paint a very bad picture of what's going on," said Swartzberg.

In late August, the CDC website was also quietly updated to suggest people might not need to get tested if they had been exposed to positive COVID-19 patients, but were asymptomatic. The controversial change caused widespread uproar, which again forced the agency to revert back to its original recommendation.

"What we're seeing with this is really a microcosm of what we're seeing in our society," said Swartzberg. "And because so many lies come out of the federal government and especially the White House, that they've created mistrust in everything. Who can you trust?"

Dr. Swartzberg does not blame the scientists and researchers at the CDC, many of whom he knows personally.

"And it is one of the most important sources of information for our society in terms of health and wellbeing," said Swartzberg. "And the fact that it's being damaged so by the federal government, by the executive branch of the federal government in particular, is a true tragedy."

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