May 22, 2020 - Health

CDC emphasizes coronavirus does not spread easily on surfaces

In this image, Robert Redfield stands in front of the White House logo
CDC Director Robert Redfield briefs reporters on the coronavirus at the White House on April 22. Photo: Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images

The coronavirus does not spread easily from touching surfaces or objects, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention emphasizes in recently updated guidance.

Why it matters: The virus can last on surfaces from hours to days, depending on the material, according to a widely referenced study in the New England Journal of Medicine. But, person-to-person spread is currently thought to be the primary way the virus is transmitted, the CDC says.

What they're saying: "Improvements were made to the COVID-19 transmission page including adding a headline to clarify other types of spread beyond person to person, as a result of usability improvements," CDC spokesperson Benjamin Haynes told Axios, noting the CDC's "transmission language has not changed."

  • "COVID-19 spreads mainly through close contact from person-to-person. While it may be possible that a person can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes, this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads," Haynes said.
  • “Direct contact with people has the highest likelihood of getting infected — being close to an infected person, rather than accepting a newspaper or a FedEx guy dropping off a box,” virologist Vincent Munster from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases facility Rocky Mountain Laboratories told the Washington Post.

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