Coronavirus Resources

Coronavirus on Surfaces: Your Questions, Answered

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With coronavirus, new questions seem to crop up daily about how to keep yourself and your family healthy. Because this coronavirus is a new strain, we’re learning more about it day by day.

Right now, many people want to know how long coronavirus can survive on surfaces. We turned to The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO) to better answer your questions about coronavirus on surfaces so that you can better protect yourself and your loved ones.

Can Coronavirus Live on Surfaces Like Plastic?

This strain of coronavirus is believed to behave like other coronaviruses, which can survive on surfaces. However, how long it can live on surfaces is unclear. For instance, one study found that a coronavirus strain was detectable for up to 24 hours on cardboard, and up to two to three days on plastic.

Generally, coronavirus is thought to be spread by respiratory droplets that travel through the air when an infected person coughs or sneezes, rather than by contact with contaminated items.

What’s the Risk of Getting COVID-19 When Touching Items on a Store Shelf?

We don’t yet know what the risk may be, if there is one. According to the WHO, it’s uncertain how long coronavirus survives on surfaces, but it seems to behave like other coronaviruses. Preliminary evidence suggests that coronavirus may live on surfaces for hours to days.

In theory, coronavirus could be lingering on an item you pick up from a store shelf. But there isn’t enough evidence to say for certain.

If you’re worried the surface of an item from a store shelf may be infected, wipe the outside of the product with a simple disinfectant. Remember to wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds after touching the package and avoid touching your eyes, mouth or nose in the meantime.

Should I Wear Gloves to Protect Against Coronavirus While Shopping?

Instead of wearing plastic gloves, the WHO advocates washing your hands frequently with soap and water, for 20 seconds every time.

When grocery shopping, wearing plastic gloves can give you a false sense of security. This is because your gloves can still pick up coronavirus from touching contaminated surfaces. Just like with your bare hands, if you touch your nose, mouth or eyes when wearing rubber gloves, the virus can make its way into your body.

Can I Get Coronavirus From a Package Delivered to My Doorstep?

While you’re staying home and avoiding running out to the store, you might still be shopping online, and that may mean getting package deliveries. Preliminary research suggests that coronavirus may live on surfaces for hours to days.

However, the risk of catching coronavirus from a package that has been transported and exposed to different conditions and temperatures is low. Based on the CDC’s experience and expertise with other types of coronaviruses, COVID-19 isn’t likely to survive the trip the package takes from the warehouse to your doorstep.

That’s true even if the package came from a country with a major coronavirus outbreak. Currently, there have been no cases of COVID-19 in the United States associated with imported goods.

Still, to protect yourself, wash your hands after opening the package within the shipping box. Washing your hands regularly is one of the most effective ways to reduce the chances of contracting coronavirus and spreading it to others. When in doubt, wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.

Can I Contract Coronavirus From Opening Mail?

Like a package left on your doorstep, your mail could be infected with coronavirus in theory, but the risk is very low. Still, to play it safe, wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds after opening your mail.

Can I Get COVID-19 From Takeout Food?

Coronavirus isn’t a foodborne illness. According to the CDC, there’s no evidence coronavirus can be spread through food, so there is a low risk with takeout food contamination.

However, it may be possible to contract coronavirus by touching takeout food packaging that has coronavirus on it, then touching your own mouth, nose or possibly your eyes. But that’s not thought to be the main way the virus spreads.

Coronavirus is generally thought to spread from person to person through respiratory droplets from coughing or sneezing. Currently, there’s no evidence of coronavirus being transmitted via food or food packaging.

According to the CDC, because of poor survivability of coronavirus on surfaces, the risk of the virus spreading from food products or packaging is very low. Still, before preparing or eating takeout, wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.

Does Sitting on a Bench, Bus or Train Pose a Risk of Getting Coronavirus?

Sitting on a bench, train or bus could pose a risk if you’re sitting near someone who is infected with coronavirus and that person sneezes or coughs. Coronavirus can travel from person to person through droplets in the air.

If you’re taking public transportation or sitting on a public bench, try to keep a distance of at least 6 feet between you and another person.

Can Handling Money Put Me at Risk of Getting COVID-19?

The CDC recommends limiting handling cash to decrease the potential spread of coronavirus and to use online transactions whenever possible.

When shopping or banking, the CDC says to use your credit or debit card rather than cash whenever you can, and to use the tap technology if it’s available, which is the option to tap your card instead of inserting the chip. Also, wash your hands or use hand sanitizer after a trip to the bank or ATM.

Should I Change My Clothes When I Come Home?

There’s no need to change your clothes after coming in from outside, although it may feel comfortable to do so. If someone in your home is sick, you’ll want to take extra care when doing laundry.

According to the CDC, to avoid getting sick yourself:

  • Dispose of disposable gloves after each use to avoid spreading germs
  • If gloves aren’t available, wash your hands thoroughly after handling dirty laundry
  • Wear disposable gloves and keep the soiled items away from your body while laundering an ill person’s laundry
  • Wash your hands immediately after removing gloves

How to Clean Surfaces to Protect Against COVID-19

To help you protect yourself and your family, the CDC offers these cleaning guidelines:

Scrub Up on Cleaning
When someone is sick, wear disposable gloves while cleaning and disinfecting. Use soap and water to clean surfaces that are dirty before disinfecting them. Routinely clean high-touch surfaces daily, such as doorknobs, light switches, phones, toilets, sinks, faucets, keyboards and desks.

Disinfect Surfaces Daily
Disinfect high-touch surfaces in your home daily. The CDC says most common EPA-registered household disinfectants should work. Diluted bleach solutions are effective for appropriate surfaces as well — just follow the manufacturer’s instructions when using bleach.

To prepare a bleach solution, mix five tablespoons bleach per gallon of water, or four teaspoons of bleach per quart of water.

Tackle Laundry Like a Pro
If someone in your household is showing symptoms of COVID-19, the disease caused by coronavirus, the CDC says you don’t have to wash their clothes separately. But when you’re gathering laundry, avoid shaking a sick person’s dirty clothes to reduce the chances of coronavirus spreading through the air. The CDC also advises wearing gloves; if gloves aren’t available, wash your hands thoroughly after doing the laundry.

Wash Laundry and Your Hands With Warm Water
The CDC laundering guidelines say it’s important to wash clothes in the warmest water possible and dry everything thoroughly. And don’t forget to clean and disinfect hampers and laundry baskets with disinfectant, just like you would any hard surface to reduce germ spread. It’s also essential to wash your hands with warm water, and wash them often, for 20 seconds each time.

We’re Here for You and Your Family

From online doctor visits to our all-access app, AdventHealth is here for you. If you or a family member feels sick, the AdventHealth app empowers you to have an online doctor visit from the comfort of home. In the app on your smartphone or tablet, you can make a telemedicine (also called telehealth) appointment with a physician online.

For more information about coronavirus, what to do if you or a loved one feels sick, and other questions you may have, visit our Coronavirus Resource Hub.

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