Without any fanfare, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has changed its guidelines on the coronavirus and now says the virus “does not spread easily” from “touching surfaces or objects. Previously, the CDC said “it may be possible” to spread the virus by touching or handling infected surfaces.
It warns, however, that doesn’t mean that practical and realistic precautions shouldn’t be taken.
“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,” according to the CDC.
The CDC did, however, remind citizens that the virus does mainly spread person-to-person, noting the virus that causes a COVID-19 infection, SARS-CoV-2, “is spreading very easily and sustainably between people.”
The coronavirus is one tough bug but, like the flu virus, does not easily spread from infected surfaces. The change in the guidelines is to be expected given that there has been comparatively little research (just a few months) on how the coronavirus spreads.
The change comes after a preliminary study from March suggested that the novel coronavirus can remain in the air for up to three hours, and live on surfaces such as plastic and stainless steel for up to three days, prompting many to take to wiping down packages and other items. However, at the time, the study was yet not peer-reviewed, and, as Yahoo notes, did not determine if people could be infected from touching certain surfaces analyzed.
Dr. John Whyte, the chief medical officer for the healthcare website WebMD, called the CDC’s changes an “important step in clarifying how the virus is spread, especially as we gain new information.”
“It also may help reduce anxiety and stress. 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,” Whyte told Fox News in an email.
Dr. William Schaffner, the medical director of the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases (NFID) and professor at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine says pretty much the same thing.
“The virus that causes COVID-19 is thought to spread mainly through close contact from person-to-person (within about 6 feet). Person-to-person contact is a highway. Touching infected surfaces are little paths, but they don’t carry the big viral traffic,” he told Fox News in an email. “To reduce the spread of COVID-19, the safest thing is to continue social distancing, wear masks, and wash hands frequently and thoroughly.”
Washing your hands is a good idea whether there’s a pandemic or not. For seniors who are ill like me, a mask will be required until a vaccine is found.
But wearing one in a crowded space should be a courtesy, not a requirement. I think we’ll find as we get closer to “normal,” that the hysteria over COVID-19 will begin to diminish and people will once again congregate as they did before.
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