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CDC updates COVID-19 guidance on cleaning and disinfecting homes and workplaces

Denise Jezak, senior custodian at Mary L. Fonseca Elementary School, disinfected the door handle to a classroom.
Denise Jezak, senior custodian at Mary L. Fonseca Elementary School, disinfected the door handle to a classroom.Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Monday updated its guidance on cleaning and disinfecting homes and facilities to reflect data showing the risk of transmitting COVID-19 through surfaces is low.

Speaking at a press briefing by the White House’s COVID-19 team, CDC chief Dr. Rochelle Walenskysaid that while it is still possible to become infected with the virus through touching contaminated surfaces and objects, evidence has shown that the risk is low.

Walensky, drawing a distinction between cleaning and disinfecting, explained that cleaning surfaces using household cleaners removes germs from surfaces, while disinfecting surfaces kills the germs.

“In most situations, regular cleaning of surfaces with soap and detergent, not necessarily disinfecting those surfaces, is enough to reduce the risk of COVID-19 spread,” Walensky said. “Disinfection is only recommended in indoor settings, schools, and homes where there has been a suspected or confirmed case of COVID-19 within the last 24 hours.”

Walensky emphasized at the Monday briefing that the main way people are infected with the virus is through close, person-to-person contact when they are within 6 feet of each other.

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Walensky also said that “in most cases, fogging, fumigation, and wide-area or electrostatic spraying is not recommended as a primary method of disinfection and has several safety risks to consider.”

She noted that the risk of becoming infected with COVID-19 through surfaces can also be reduced by wearing masks consistently and correctly, washing your hands, and by following guidance from the CDC and Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

According to the updated guidance on the CDC’s website, it is enough to clean once a day when no one who is suspected or confirmed to have COVID-19 has been in a space. If certain conditions apply that increase the risk of COVID-19 infection from touching surfaces, like high transmission of COVID-19 in the community, a low number of people wearing masks, infrequent hand hygiene, or if the facility is occupied by people who are at greater risk for severe illness from COVID-19, the CDC states, you may want to clean more frequently or also disinfect shared spaces.

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Earlier in the briefing, Walensky discussed “continued, concerning data trends” about increasing COVID-19 cases across the country, saying the most recent data show that the seven-day average of new cases is about 64,000 cases per day, an increase of about 7 percent compared to the previous seven-day period.

“Hospital admissions have also increased. The most recent seven-day average is about 4,970 admissions per day, up about 3 percent from the previous seven-day period,” Walensky said, noting that the number of deaths due to COVID-19 in the country have decreased to about 800 per day.

The country is now entering its fourth week of increasing COVID-19 cases, Walensky said, a trend that comes as more Americans are getting vaccinated against the virus. As of Monday, nearly one in three Americans and over 40 percent of adults have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, and nearly one in four adults are fully vaccinated against the virus, Andy Slavitt, a White House COVID-19 advisor, said at the briefing.

The increase in COVID-19 cases in the country is occurring predominantly in younger adults, Walenksy said, and the rise is in part due to more highly transmissible variants of the virus.

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“I understand that people are tired, and that they are ready for this pandemic to be over, as am I,” she said. “Please continue to hang in there and to continue to do the things that we know prevent the spread of the virus. If we all continue to wear a well-fitting mask, physically distance, and get vaccinated, America can and will get out of this pandemic. We can meet this moment if we keep doing our part. Everyone working together and vaccinated as soon as possible is how we can turn the corner.”


Amanda Kaufman can be reached at amanda.kaufman@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @amandakauf1.