A stunning New York Times report claims that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's estimate that the risk of coronavirus transmission while outdoors is around 10% is greatly exaggerated. 

The CDC has cited the estimate to back up its recommendation that vaccinated individuals do away with masks in certain outdoor situations, but should keep wearing masks during others.

According to the Times, the 10% benchmark is based "partly on a misclassification" of some virus transmission in Singapore at various construction sites that may have actually taken place in indoor settings. Singapore also classified settings that were a mix of indoors and outdoors as outdoors, including construction building sites, the outlet reported.

Still, the number of cases reported at the various sites did not add up to as much as 10% of transmission, but was more like 1% or less, the report stated.

In a Senate committee hearing on Tuesday, Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, pressed CDC director Dr. Rochelle Walensky on the report and said it was one of three recent examples of conflicting, confusing guidance issued by the agency, with the other two involving school reopenings and summer camps.

Walensky said the 10% benchmark came from a meta-analysis topline result from a study published in the Journal of Infectious Disease back in November. 

"The topline result was less than 10%, published in the Journal of Infectious Diseases, one of our top infectious disease journals," she said. "That is where that came from, it was from a published study that synthesized studies from many places." 


Collins requested that the full report be placed in the record. 

"There are limited data on outdoor transmission," a CDC official told the Times. "The data we do have supports the hypothesis that the risk of outdoor transmission is low. 10 percent is a conservative estimate from a recent systematic review of peer-reviewed papers. CDC cannot provide the specific risk level for every activity in every community and errs on the side of protection when it comes to recommending steps to protect health. It is important for people and communities to consider their own situations and risks and to take appropriate steps to protect their health."

Multiple officials have said that the CDC will continue to monitor the data in "real time" and make adjustments as needed, including Dr. Anthony Fauci and Walensky. However, critics say the agency’s conservative approach to dropping mask mandates is discouraging some from seeking vaccines.


"We’re at the point right now where we can start lifting these ordinances and allowing people to resume normal activity, certainly outdoors we shouldn’t be putting limits on gatherings anymore, we should be encouraging people to go outside," former FDA commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb told CBS’ "Face the Nation" on Sunday. "In the states where prevalence is low, vaccination rates are hgh and we have good testing in place and we’re identifying infections, I think we can start lifting these restrictions indoors as well on a broad basis."