Nearly half a year after the introduction of coronavirus to the world, the CDC is now saying they do not believe that a person can get COVID-19 by touching surfaces that have the virus on it. But with all things coronavirus, there is a caveat — they say it’s possible, just not to the degree they thought previously.
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, who updated their “How COVID-19 Spreads” webpage, the virus spreads easily between people, but not so much from objects.
This is a change from the information that’s been put forth all along in which it was said that the virus can live on objects for various amounts of time and if you get it on your hand and then touch your nose, mouth or eyes you may get infected… well, it’s sort of a change.
They say it still possible someone could be infected that way. They’re not ruling it out altogether, it’s just less of a concern because now that they’ve had more time to learn about the virus, they’ve learned more about how it spreads.
According to Dr. John Greene, Section Chief for the Division of Infectious Diseases and Tropical Medicine at Moffitt Cancer Center, “Fomites or objects in the environment that are touched with hands and then hands touch mouth nose eye can rarely spread respiratory viruses, he wrote in an email to Heavy. “Some have claimed up to 5% of cases but that is likely too high,” he said.
Coronavirus Can Live on Surfaces But It Loses Infectiousness Over Time
According to Dr. Michael Teng, a professor and infectious disease expert at the University of South Florida, while a virus can live on surfaces for a while, they “degrade over time” making them less potent. He says that what the CDC is saying is that COVID-19 is mostly spread between person to person contact.
Dr. Teng told Heavy, “You just don’t see as much transmission from doorknobs and things like that. I think we’re seeing mostly transmission between people…basically it’s not that you need to wipe down all your packages it’s just more that you need to be diligent about washing your hands and keeping them out of your face.”
So while many people have been wiping down groceries, packages, and as many surfaces as possible so as not to touch the virus and then inadvertently touch our face, maybe that worry was overblown. However, with so little established knowledge about the novel coronavirus combined with fear of getting sick or worse, extra precaution seemed reasonable. Reports of the virus living on cardboard, plastic, fabric, and metal, for days instilled the idea that the disease could be anywhere at any time.
Teng says that it’s all about levels of contamination. Somewhere like a hospital is going to have a lot of contaminated surfaces and if those weren’t regularly sanitized it could be infectious, however with something like an Amazon package, the boxes are in the back of the trucks and the person delivering the package only touches part of the box, he said.
“Hopefully they’re not sneezing over the box, but still once you open the package you wash your hands right away,” Teng said.
Dr. Greene agrees. “There is no need to wipe down packages or mail. The risk of transmission is zero. Just wash your hands after handling it,” he told Heavy.
The CDC’s updated information on the spread of coronavirus also said that it is not believed to be spread from people to animals or vice versa, even though they acknowledge there have been infected pets. Again, it’s just a low risk.
Coronavirus is More Contagious Than the Flu But Less Contagious Than the Measles
According to the CDC, “The virus that causes COVID-19 is spreading very easily and sustainably between people. Information from the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic suggest that this virus is spreading more efficiently than influenza, but not as efficiently as measles, which is highly contagious.”
The agency maintains that respiratory droplets are the main way the disease is spread and that they are most easily spread in people who are in close contact with one another regularly. For that reason they say keep that social distancing going, including staying six feet away from other people when possible.
“This is very important in preventing the spread of COVID-19,” according to the CDC.
They say to avoid getting COVID-19, keep washing your hands with soap and water, use sanitizer with 60% or more alcohol when soap and water aren’t available, and even though they said the virus is not easily spread from contact with objects that have the virus on it, go ahead and keep cleaning and disinfected regularly touched surfaces.