Virus transmission: How long can COVID-19 live on surfaces?

Coronavirus New Mexico

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – Health experts have talked about how contagious the coronavirus is. As businesses start to reopen, some people are wondering just how the virus can spread when people start shopping in stores together, or at some point, eating at restaurants again. Health and Human Services Secretary, Dr. David Scrase, discussed what research has shown about the virus transmission, how long it can live on surfaces, and how people can protect themselves.

“Person-to-person spread is by far the primary way COVID spreads, droplets from our breathing, coughing, sneezing, talking, singing,” Dr. Scrase explained. As far as the virus living on surfaces, he explained, “It doesn’t like those porous surfaces, really hard surfaces like stainless steel or plastic, it can last longer – as much as 72 hours.”

The virus tends to degrade quicker on surfaces like clothing and cardboard, he said. Even though the COVID-19 particles can survive on hard surfaces for up to three days, Dr. Scrase said the virus particles do break down over that time. So if someone is out shopping, sifting through clothes that an infected person may have touched, Dr. Scrase said touching the items isn’t as much of a concern as people touching their face afterward.

Since the primary transmission of the virus is from person-to-person contact and from breathing in tiny droplets, Dr. Scrase said that’s why masks are so important as people often don’t know they have the virus. When restaurants and breweries do reopen to inhouse service, Dr. Scrase also addressed the concern around food safety.

“We don’t know as much about whether or not you can get COVID through your gastrointestinal tract, but if you pick up the hamburger, you take a bite of it, then you notice your face itches a little and you rub it, you know that potentially could cause infection,” Dr. Scrase explained.

He also discussed ‘super-spreader’ events such as concerts or a choir practice, where the virus particles are projected into the air. “It’s propelled further, so yeah those particles can stay in the air for like up to 15 minutes, but it’s propelled further so more people may get it,” Dr. Scrase explained. Aside from wearing masks out in public, Dr. Scrase said one of the hardest things for people to get used to is not touching their face.

Full Interview with Health and Human Services Secretary, Dr. David Scrase

New Mexico Coronavirus Resource Guide

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