Are you concerned about the possibility of contracting coronavirus from a contaminated surface? We asked an infectious disease specialist to provide insight into how long the virus can survive on common surfaces and what we need to know to keep us safe. Dr. Goldman, an infectious disease specialist, continues to wear a cloth mask when leaving home, but he does not take any special precautions when it comes to the possibility of contracting coronavirus from a contaminated surface. Preliminary evidence suggests that the surface survival of the new coronavirus is similar to that of SARS, a related coronavirus first identified in 2002. In late March, a laboratory study showed that the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus can persist in plastic and stainless steel for days.1 The novel coronavirus is still relatively new and there is still much to learn about how easily it can spread through contaminated surfaces.
Most people are aware that the most common way coronavirus (COVID-19) spreads is from person to person through respiratory droplets released when an infected person coughs or sneezes. Therefore, it is understandable why people are concerned about which surfaces are most likely to be contaminated with the virus, as well as how long the virus can live there. At the beginning of the coronavirus outbreak, the focus was on fomites rather than aerosols due to what was known about other infectious diseases. If someone sick with COVID-19 lives with you or has been at home in the past 24 hours, it is important to disinfect frequently touched surfaces after cleaning them with soap and water.
The new coronavirus appears to be able to survive longer on plastic and stainless steel, potentially up to three days on these surfaces.