Surface Survival of SARS-CoV-2

Seriously, how long can this thing survive on surfaces?

In an earlier post, I referenced some preliminary research suggesting that SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, can live in the air and on surfaces between several hours and several days. This work, originally released as a pre-print and recently finalized and published in the New England Journal of Medicine, found the virus is viable for up to 4 hours on copper, 24 hours on cardboard, 48 hours on stainless steel, 72 hours on plastics, and is also detectable in the air for 3 hours. 

A lot of posts present this information out of context and headlines can make it sound frightening, “SARS-CoV-2 Lives on Plastic for 72 Hours!!!” However, what’s more important is the amount of virus that’s still alive. It’s <0.1% of what the investigators started with. So, infection is theoretically possible but extremely unlikely at the levels they saw after a few days. 

Another important thing to mention lies in the experimental design of the aerosol component of the study. It has some caveats. They found that the virus can be detected in the air for 3 hours in the lab. However, in nature, respiratory droplets fall to the ground at a faster speed than the aerosols generated in their experiments. This is because the lab-generated aerosols are smaller (<5 μm) than what is produced from a cough or sneeze, so they remain in the air at face-height longer than the natural, heavier particles. It’s not a perfect comparison (though science rarely is, we just do our best). The size of these particles can affect how they move through the air and how they impact a surface. 

So, at the end of the day you’re more likely to become infected through the air if you’re next to an infected person versus a contaminated surface. Make sure you clean surfaces with disinfectant or soap – they work because they disturb the oily external layer of the virus keeping it from infecting your cells. 

CDC Situation Report – 60 Highlights on SARS-CoV-2

Solidarity Trial – International Study Being Organized

The first vaccine trial has begun just 60 days after the genetic sequence of the virus was shared by China. To ensure clear evidence of which treatments are most effective, WHO and its partners are organizing a large international study, called the Solidarity Trial, in many countries to compare different treatments.

WHO Health Alerts via WhatsApp

To increase access to reliable information, WHO has partnered with WhatsApp and Facebook to launch a WHO Health Alert messaging service. This service will provide the latest news and information on COVID-19, including details on symptoms and how people can protect themselves. The Health Alert service is now available in English and will be introduced in other languages next week.

To access it, send the word “hi” to the following number on WhatsApp: +41 798 931 892.

Virtual Concert Series

WHO and Global Citizen launched #TogetherAtHome, a virtual, no-contact concert series to promote physical distancing and action for global health. Chris Martin, lead singer of Coldplay, kicked it off earlier this week with a performance from his home. More Solidarity Sessions are planned to promote health, show support for people who are staying at home to protect themselves and others from COVID-19, and encourage donations to the COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund.


How does SARS-CoV-2 spread? How long does it last on surfaces?

SARS-CoV-2 can spread between infected or non-infected people and infected people may or may not appear sick. The disease can spread between people from small droplets when someone coughs or exhales but they can also spread when these droplets land on any surface.

Recent preliminary research suggests that the novel coronavirus can survive on some surfaces for up to 3 days. This new research has not been peer-reviewed or published and is incomplete, therefore its conclusions cannot be treated as fact. This study has now been published in the New England Journal of Medicine, see my comments here.

What are the symptoms?

  • High fever (fever > 100.4ºF, a high fever is > 101.5ºF)
  • Dry cough
  • Shortness of breath

What if I think I may have COVID-19?

Call your primary care provider and discuss your symptoms with them over the phone. If they determine you should be tested, they’ll order the test and work with local and state health departments to coordinate the testing. Follow the Washington State Department of Health’s steps to help prevent the disease from spreading to people in your home and community found here.

How is my insurance coverage affected by the novel coronavirus?

The state of Washington has provided a page with a lot of information on how different types of insurance coverage may be affected, click here for that information.

If you have a state-regulated health plan (individual health plans, small employer health plans and some large employer plans) testing for SARS-CoV-2 and the associated office visit and lab testing is covered without copays or deductibles.

What if I don’t have health insurance?

If you do not have health insurance, the Washington Health Benefits Exchange has opened a limited-time enrollment period through April 8, 2020. 

Until April 8, individuals seeking a special enrollment must contact the Customer Support Center between 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday-Friday at 1-855-923-4633; TTY: 1-855-627-9604, or a local certified broker or navigator, request the SEP, and select a plan by April 8 for coverage start date beginning April 1, 2020. Language assistance and disability accommodations are provided at no cost.

For more information, click here.

Okay, I’m working from home / out of work / etc – what now?

Physicians and mental health experts emphasize how critical it is to maintain your normal routine. That means following your typical sleep and meal schedules and getting exercise. This certainly has the potential to be very isolating, so please do what you can to reach out to family, friends and colleagues and virtually check-in frequently.

I’m a parent, how do I help my child/teen cope with anxiety or fear about COVID-19?

Here’s a great article from Seattle Children’s that offers some really great information for how to help your kids (and it’s wise information for yourselves as well!). My biggest takeaway, and the impetus for writing this document, is to limit your information seeking to a few credible sources. This will help you stay informed without feeling overwhelmed. Summary points below, but you can read the whole article here.

  1. Get the facts
  2. Check-in and ask what questions they have
  3. Watch for changes in behavior
  4. Help them face anxiety and stick to routines
  5. Limit media coverage
  6. Take care of yourself

There’s also a great resource created by NPR and it’s a comic for kids about coronavirus. Check it out here.

I’ve heard the rumors, is it true there’s a quarantine/national lockdown coming?

Governor Inslee confirmed yesterday (3/16/20) that to his knowledge, there is currently no plan for a quarantine or forced lockdown.