The coronavirus may be able to live on surfaces for varying periods of time, depending on the surface. But it’s safe to get a package at home, an expert said Wednesday.
“I think it’s really very safe to do that,” said Dr. Daniel Kuritzkes, chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases at Brigham and Women’s Hospital.
Kuritzkes said all you need to do, if you’re concerned about somebody somewhere coughing coronavirus on your package, is to wash your hands after you’ve opened it.
Kuritzkes noted that some studies, including a newly released study in the New England Journal of Medicine, are raising concerns about how long the virus can live on surfaces.
But he said there’s a difference between a lab study that’s intended to detect the most minuscule amount of a virus on a surface and the amount of virus that would get from a package onto your hands and then to your face. And he noted that there will be a dramatic decline in infectivity from the virus on surfaces hour by hour.
“The way experiments are done is very different from the way someone would interact with a package,” he said.
“It’s a really, really low risk and easily avoided by just washing your hands after opening your package,” he said.
He also said he would not worry at all about everyday letters in the mail.
Elizabeth McGraw, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Dynamics at Pennsylvania State University, was a little more wary of packages.
“To be cautious, people can handle packages with gloves and also let them sit for a day before opening," she said in an e-mail.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on its website has addressed the more specific question of packages coming from China, saying, “In general, because of poor survivability of these coronaviruses on surfaces, there is likely very low risk of spread from products or packaging that are shipped over a period of days or weeks at ambient temperatures. Coronaviruses are generally thought to be spread most often by respiratory droplets. Currently there is no evidence to support transmission of COVID-19 associated with imported goods and there have not been any cases of COVID-19 in the United States associated with imported goods.”
Martin Finucane can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.