This is what the CDC is now saying about COVID-19 spreading on surfaces

Some good news for the world today. According to a new report from The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention surface exposure is not a particularly effective way for the virus to infect its host. Here is what you need to know about COVID-19 spreading on surfaces. 

Fomites are objects that have become contaminated with infectious agents and serve in their transmission. Early reports assessing coronavirus exposure risks associated with surface contact survived on the duration that SARS-CoV-2 remains active outside of a host.

A recent study published in the New England Journal of Medicine revealed that the coronavirus can live on some surfaces for up to three days and up to three hours while suspended in the air.

Without intervention, the novel coronavirus can live on plastered walls and countertops for up to 36 hours. On plastic and stainless steel this value is closer to 72 hours.

On milk containers, refrigerators, pots, pans, sinks, and detergent bottles SARS-Cov-2 remains stable for roughly two to three days. 

Although these findings welcome a certain degree of caution, viral load matters a lot more than the mere presence of a virus with respect to successful transmission. 

“It just does not spread easily in that manner. Nor by animal-to-human contact or vice versa,”  the agency explained. “COVID-19 is a new disease and we are still learning about how it spreads. It may be possible for COVID-19 to spread in other ways, but these are not thought to be the main ways the virus spreads.”

The agency maintains that person to person contact is the most reliable way for the virus to spread. Unfortunately, COVID-19’s incubation period differs from similar respiratory illnesses caused by other coronavirus studied in the past. For a start, carriers are the most contagious while symptoms are still mild or before they even begin.

During this window, infected individuals shed a considerable amount of viral debris often giving the virus to three people before recovery.

Contaminated surfaces and objects pose less risk because a single virus is not enough to overwhelm our immune system. 

In epidemiology, the amount of virus required to make a person sick is called the infectious dose.

It is not categorically known what the minimum infectious dose of SARS-CoV-2 is  but virologists believe it must be on the lower end, considering how quickly the virus spreads.

Direct contact with a person in the early stages of infection is particularly dangerous because the higher the viral load the more severe the symptoms will be once incubation is complete. 

SARS-CoV-2 may remain active for hours in the air and on objects but its potency decreases over a much shorter period of time. 

The only sure-fire way to remain biologically naive to the coronavirus is by practicing social distancing and staying at least 6 feet away from others, washing your hands with soap and water, cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched areas and employing a face mask during high-risk scenarios. 

Products composed of 60% alcohol,  62-71%  ethanol, 0.5%  hydrogen peroxide or 0.1 % sodium hypochlorite can deactivate infectious coronavirus material  in under 60 seconds.  

“Many people were concerned that by simply touching an object they may get coronavirus, and that’s simply not the case. Even when a virus may stay on a surface, it doesn’t mean that it’s actually infectious.“I think this new guideline helps people understand more about what does and doesn’t increase risk. It doesn’t mean we stop washing hands and disinfecting surfaces. But it does allow us to be practical and realistic as we try to return to a sense of normalcy,” 

Dr. John Whyte, chief medical officer for the healthcare website WebMD, explained in a press release

CW Headley is a reporter for the Ladders and can be reached at