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coronavirus research

Worry about contact with people, not objects, CDC advises in coronavirus guidelines

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention prominently warns on its "How COVID-19 Spreads" page that "the virus spreads easily between people." But it also says, in new language, that "the virus does not spread easily in other ways," including "from touching surfaces or objects," The Washington Post noticed Thursday.

"It may be possible that a person can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes," the CDC says. "This is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads, but we are still learning more about this virus." CDC spokesman Kristen Nordlund told the Post the quietly updated guidance came from an internal review and "usability testing," but did not represent a change in how the CDC describes transmission. Previous versions of the site did have similar language, the Post reports.

The coronavirus can remain potentially viable on cardboard for up to 24 hours and up to three days on plastic and metal, virologist Vincent Munster and his colleagues at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases lab in Hamilton, Montana, found. But it usually breaks down within hours of leaving its host. "Direct contact with people has the highest likelihood of getting infected — being close to an infected person, rather than accepting a newspaper or a FedEx guy dropping off a box," Munster told the Post.

If not living in fear of Amazon deliveries is the good news, the bad news is people are starting to venture into public spaces again, not always observing social distancing. The U.S. is on the cusp of 100,000 COVID-19 deaths, and if just 30 percent of people return to pre-COVID life, that number will easily surpass 200,000 by the end of summer, Nina Fefferman, who models diseases at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, tells Politico.