Feb 11, 2020 - 5 min
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A tiny error with tremendous consequences. All pandemic long, scientists brawled over how COVID spreads. One aerosol scientist at Virginia Tech believed that the coronavirus looked as if it hung in the air and infected anyone who breathed enough of it. But the World Health Organization didn’t believe it. She had a feeling that this dismissal was part of a bigger problem related to outdated science reinforcing public health policy. It was important to get through to them, but first, she had to discover what was at the root of the failing communication. Megan Molteni explores how discovering an inaccuracy in a widely used risk calculus answered how COVID and other respiratory diseases are spread. But, as she reveals, the bigger test came in the form of convincing two powerful health authorities that the error was tremendously and crucially significant.