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Coronavirus Can Live on Some Surfaces 3 Days, in the Air 3 Hours, New Study Says

  • Michael Foust Crosswalk Headlines Contributor
  • Published Mar 12, 2020
Coronavirus Can Live on Some Surfaces 3 Days, in the Air 3 Hours, New Study Says

The coronavirus can live up to three hours in the air and up to three days on certain surfaces, according to a new study that illustrates the difficulty in containing it.

The coronavirus, also called COVID-19, “could be detected” in the air “up to 3 hours post aerosolization, up to 4 hours on copper, up to 24 hours on cardboard and up to 2-3 days on plastic and stainless steel,” according to the study, which was first reported by the Associated Press

The virus, the authors noted, demonstrates “relatively long viability on stainless steel and polypropylene [plastic] compared to copper or cardboard.”  

The test was conducted by a group of scientists at the National Institute of Health’s Rocky Mountain Laboratory in Hamilton, Mont., and funded in part by the U.S. government. 

The World Health Organization on Wednesday declared the outbreak a pandemic, a label that references the rate of spread, not the mortality rate. The death rate in the epicenter of Wuhan, China, was about 3-4 percent, but elsewhere has been much lower – about 0.7 percent. 

“WHO has been assessing this outbreak around the clock and we are deeply concerned both by the alarming levels of spread and severity, and by the alarming levels of inaction,” WHO said. “We have therefore made the assessment that COVID-19 can be characterized as a pandemic.”

The government-funded study, though, suggested the coronavirus isn’t spreading due to its environmental viability but rather because individuals infected with it “may shed and transmit the virus while pre-symptomatic or asymptomatic.” In other words, individuals have the coronavirus and spread it before they develop obvious symptoms. 

“This reduces the efficacy of quarantine and contact tracing,” the study said. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention lists six steps to protect yourself from the coronavirus and to stop the spread: 1) clean your hands often; 2) avoid close contact with others; 3) stay home if you’re sick; 4) cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze or use the inside of your elbow, and then immediately wash your hands; 5) wear a facemask if you are sick; and, 6) clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces daily.

Photo courtesy: ©Getty Images/Panorama Images

Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, the Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.