Gearing Up During the Coronavirus Pandemic

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Numerous brick-and-mortar stores are closed, and you’re likely stuck at home, perhaps without some gear you need to do your job. Josh Centers offers some advice about package precautions, why you may need to look beyond Amazon, and how Best Buy is adapting to the coronavirus pandemic.

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Great article! I was actually going to ask about opinions on how long the virus sticks to surfaces. Things have changed since I read stuff last week.

I found an image yesterday from Medscape, which says 4-5 days on paper. Nothing about cardboard. (no idea how good Medscape is). Most packages have packing slips inside. I currently have a box of mail sitting in my hall, not touching it for awhile.

I’d originally heard it didn’t live as long on porous materials but new data seems to contradict that. Then the story about them finding it in the cruise ships after 17 days!


Thanks! The thing about finding it in the cruise ship after 17 days is they found RNA, not active virus. CNBC misreported that and then later changed the article. I haven’t heard about it surviving on paper that long, I sure hope that isn’t the case.

There are many different reports about the virus’s viability on surfaces and there’s a lot we don’t know yet, but WebMD’s FAQ seems to align with what I’ve heard from several other sources:

How long does this coronavirus live on surfaces or outside of the body?

A new study found that SARS-CoV-2 (the official name of the new coronavirus that causes COVID-19) may last for a few hours or several days on surfaces and several hours in the air under experimental conditions. The study found it can last up to 4 hours on copper, up to 24 hours on cardboard, and up to 2 to 3 days on plastic and stainless steel. The study shows that it may be possible to transmit the infection by touching a contaminated surface or by breathing it from the air, but does not prove that air transmission actually happens under real-world circumstances. Using a simple disinfectant on all reachable surfaces is a good idea.

I don’t believe it was CNBC that did the misreporting. The CDC document that first mentioned it has also been updated

And I can’t find any confirmation that just because only RNA was found that the virus was necessarily inactive. AFAIK, current testing is only designed to detect the virus RNA. One would have to do a Petri dish lab analysis to then decide whether the virus was still active.

Perhaps some more important info about how long the virus is detectable on surfaces:

Machamer: What’s getting a lot of press and is presented out of context is that the virus can last on plastic for 72 hours—which sounds really scary. But what’s more important is the amount of the virus that remains. It’s less than 0.1% of the starting virus material. Infection is theoretically possible but unlikely at the levels remaining after a few days. People need to know this.

And here is the original study that this information was based on:

Thanks for those updates! I obviously read the article soon after it was posted. Comments did ask how viable it was, but I never saw solid answers.

There is a video floating around about how to disinfect your groceries, and he says it can last “a long time” in the freezer.


Yes, the virus degrades on surfaces over time, but as Dr. Machamer said, infection is still theoretically possible during that period. And unfortunately, due to a lack of testing, we don’t have a clear picture of how many are or have been infected, much less how they were infected. Also, there are mixed opinions on this. I’m remaining on the side of caution. Granted, you’re still likely much safer picking up a package from your doorstep than walking into a crowded store.

We recently had a brownbag with our chief physician here on campus so he could show interested faculty some recent coronavirus data and results. When talking about contamination, he reminded us that these tests are usually conducted under lab conditions. Your parcel, however, sitting out on your porch, exposed to sunshine (UV) and wind, varying temperature and humidity fortunately makes it very hard for a virus to survive in its ‘functioning’ state. He made a strong point about how although current scientific data cannot rule out transmission via contaminated materials, this does not mean it is likely or in fact happens at all. Consequently, the WHO and CDC are both working under the assumption that the main spread vector is airborne infection. Therefore, covering your sneezes and coughs, keeping a distance, not touching your face, and frequently washing your hands are the most efficient safeguards.


One thing I don’t quite understand. If WHO and CDC see airborne infection as the most likely, why are they pushing hand-washing and disinfecting of surfaces so hard? I’m all in favor of an overabundance of caution, but it seems odd to suggest that you have to be careful about what you touch, and it would be good if you would wipe down frequently touched surfaces, but then to say “Oh, none of that really matters with mail or packages.”

Airborne virus lands on surfaces and continue to survive. People touch those surfaces and transfer the virus to their mucus membranes (eyes, nose, mouth). Infected people cough into their hands and touch surfaces leaving virus. Infected people touch their face then touch surfaces. Virus is found in fecal matter, public bathrooms are a major hazard. Just flushing the toilet disperses virus around the room. Every single surface in a bathroom needs to be sanitized frequently.

You are more likely to become infected by touching a contaminated surface and then rubbing your eyes than breathing in aerosolized virus from an infected person in close proximity breathing. Or droplets from a cough or sneeze.

Just keep washing your hands and cleaning those frequently touched surfaces. Avoid close contact with others.

Open the box, remove the items, dispose of the box where it can sit for a few days. Sanitize the items and surfaces and wash your hands thoroughly. Do not touch your face during the entire process. These boxes are in hot trucks and the humidity is rising as well. Sitting on a front step in direct sunlight will likely kill the virus.

But yeah, you’ll be fine. Just don’t lick the boxes.

I’m far from an expert here, but my impression is that hand washing is primarily to protect others. Of course if you continue to touch your face, you’ll probably also be interested in making sure your own hands are as clean as possible. My limited understanding is that the virus survives far better on our skin (and has much better chances of uptake) that it does outside or on surfaces of materials. Plus, I assume it highly depends on the exact situation. There’s a difference between a parcel touched by a dozen people exposed to all kinds of environmental conditions and an indoor elevator button touched by hundreds a day.

Ultimately, I gather to the extent of our limited knowledge, this is largely a game of probability. A 5% chance is not nothing, but it’s still more than an order of magnitude smaller than something with an 70% probability. If you have to choose (and you do), you tell people to concern themselves with the 70% scenario.

I think the whole mask issue is similar. Healthcare workers simply have other risks (and different training) than somebody like I does. The recommendations to them only seem to contradict those for the general population if we ignore that.

Quote of the day!

Reminded me of this:

Same here. :smiley:

No, sorry, sunlight absolutely will not kill the virus. A UV-C light will, as I explained in my piece for The Prepared, but there are a lot of ifs, ands, and buts that go along with that.

I highly recommend this video w/Dr. David Price, who is in the thick of Covid. Please watch the whole thing. It is a bit long and there is important info throughout. Informative and somewat hopeful if people “follow the rules”.
Dr. David Price, Cornell Weill Medical Center, NYC about Covid

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I’ve updated this article in light of a WebMD article I found that claims that coronavirus can live on some surfaces, like ceramic, glass, and paper, for up to five days.

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Oh boy. I should be segregating my quarantined mail.