Low risk of contracting COVID from surfaces: new CDC guidelines

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Monday that there is no significant risk of contracting the coronavirus from a surface or object.

The CDC clarified its position in an update to the guide that says that people generally contract COVID-19 through direct contact with a sick person or through airborne transmission.

“It is possible for people to become infected through contact with contaminated surfaces or objects (fomites), but the risk is generally considered low,” says the revised guide.

The official review came nearly a year after the agency noted last May that COVID-19 “does not spread easily” by touching surfaces or objects.

Before that, at the start of the pandemic last March, the agency had warned that “it may be possible” to transmit the virus from contaminated surfaces.

That initial guidance led the MTA to shut down the subway system overnight and use disinfectants to clean all surfaces in stations and trains.

The headquarters of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, Georgia.
The headquarters of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, Georgia.
REUTERS / Tami Chappell / File Photo

MTA President Pat Foye was then accused by Brooklyn City Councilor Brad Lander of performing a “hygiene theater” with the extreme cleanliness regime.

The CDC now says that disinfectants are not even necessary in most situations and that simple cleaning agents appear to be effective against the virus.

“There is little scientific support for the routine use of disinfectants in community settings, whether indoors or outdoors,” to prevent spread through surfaces, the CDC said.

“In most situations, cleaning surfaces with soap or detergent, and not disinfecting, is enough to reduce risk.”

The new guidelines were presented by CDC director Dr. Rochelle Walensky during a coronavirus briefing at the White House on Monday.

He said that some cleaning methods, such as fogging, fumigation and electrostatic spraying, are not recommended as the primary method of disinfection and actually carry safety risks.

Case reports have shown that the virus can be transmitted when a person touches their nose, mouth, or eyes after touching something that an infected person has recently coughed or sneezed on.

But, the CDC noted, studies have found that the risk of contracting the insect through a surface is generally less than 1 in 10,000.


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