A recent study by Australia’s national science agency found that the novel coronavirus can survive on surfaces like glass, stainless steel and money for as much as 28 days.
But many experts say that even though the virus can survive this way, the risk of contracting it from touching an infected surface is incredibly low.
In the study, researchers placed the virus on a variety of surfaces and left them in the dark, and found that the virus could survive under those conditions.
“Even if you can do that it doesn’t mean that that’s the main source of spread,” said Dr. Monica Gandhi, professor of medicine and associate chief of the Division of HIV, Infectious Diseases and Global Medicine at UCSF.
Dr. Gandhi says it is very unlikely that a significant amount of the virus would make it from an infected person onto a surface and then into your nose or mouth.
“You’d probably have 100 people cough on that cotton surface and then rub that on your nose to get it that way,” she explained. “We started at the beginning thinking fomites on surfaces could be a main route of spread because we had no idea what was going on and really, the main route of spread is asymptomatic transmission.”
Early on in the pandemic, fear of spreading the virus through surfaces was high. Public health experts advised caution and many people took to wiping down packages, mail and groceries before using them. There was also fear that you could get the virus from touching the outside of your mask.
Dr. Gandhi says we can mostly relax and avoid those kinds of measures.
“I know it sounds simple, but a respiratory virus both enters your nose and mouth and exits from your nose and mouth, especially this particular one,” she said. “So wearing a mask is profoundly important... luckily these mainstays, which is covering your nose and mouth, staying six feet away from people and general hand hygiene, is what it takes to protect you.”