Dr. Fauci Says It's "Very Unlikely" You'd Get Coronavirus This Way
But just because the guidance has changed, that doesn't mean your surfaces are 100 percent safe.
Even nearly six months into the coronavirus pandemic, scientists and medical experts are still uncovering more information every day that helps us better understand COVID-19. That being said, the onslaught of evolving information can also create confusing, constant change when it comes to the best ways to stay safe and reduce our COVID-19 risk. Perhaps the most important of those topics is exactly how the coronavirus spreads. Initial warnings from medical experts had all of us concerned about wiping down common surfaces and everything we brought into the house. But according to National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) Director Anthony Fauci, MD, it's actually very unlikely you'd get coronavirus from an inanimate object.
In an Instagram Live interview with actor Matthew McConaughey on Instagram Live, Fauci was asked whether or not contaminated surfaces were capable of spreading the virus. His answer quickly laid out the facts: "It is conceivable but very unlikely that you could get it through fomites—meaning inanimate objects… doorknobs, or computers. It can occur, but it is [a] very minor component of transmission."
Fauci continued to explain how early studies of the novel coronavirus may have misled researchers into thinking the virus was mostly transmitted by touching objects. "What investigators have done is that they've gone and shown you can get [viruses] off surfaces of cloth for 72 hours," he explained. "What hasn't been shown is that it's an inoculum that is large enough to actually transmit. So it is absolutely true that you can isolate [the virus] from doorknobs, steel, [or] chrome for 72 hours, but we don't think that is a major modality for transmission."
Instead, Fauci says the most recent evidence points to an entirely different method of transmission: person-to-person. "Overwhelmingly, it is [spread] person to person through the respiratory route," he said. "Droplets are aerosolized from one person to another."
But just because you're very unlikely to get coronavirus from a contaminated surface doesn't mean it's impossible. "High touch surfaces like railings and doorknobs, elevator buttons are not the primary driver of the infection in the United States," comparative immunologist Erin Bromage, PhD, a biology professor at the University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth told The New York Times in late May. "But it's still a bad idea to touch your face. If someone who is infectious coughs on their hand and shakes your hand and you rub your eyes—yes, you're infected. Someone's drinking from a glass, and you pick it up near the rim and later rub your eyes or mouth, you're infected."
Because of this, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) still recommends regular hand washing along with wearing a face mask and social distancing as the best combination for stopping the spread of coronavirus. And for more on what happens when you do get COVID, check out This Is the First Sign That You Have Coronavirus, Study Says.