Updated guidance released Monday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that the risk of getting COVID-19 through fomite transmission, or contact with contaminated surfaces or objects, is lower than previously estimated.
The most common mode by which people can be infected with COVID-19 is through exposure to respiratory droplets, the CDC reiterated in its updated guidance. Quantitative microbial risk assessment (QMRA) studies concluded the risk of infection through fomite transmission is “generally less than 1 in 10,000.”
“It is possible for people to be infected through contact with contaminated surfaces or objects (fomites), but the risk is generally considered to be low,” the agency said.
According to @CDCgov, the risk of getting #COVID19 by touching a contaminated surface is considered low. Follow @CDCgov, State, and local guidelines, including wearing masks, good ventilation, social distancing, hand washing, and cleaning surfaces. https://t.co/XHrvXNCHwW pic.twitter.com/N9jh8T3iEu
— U.S. EPA (@EPA) April 5, 2021
CDC has known since May 2020 that contaminated surfaces do not easily spread COVID-19 transmission, though public health guidelines around at the time suggested the virus could remain on surfaces for up to three days. But the CDC’s updated guidance Monday suggests the risk of COVID-19 infection from surfaces is lower.
The CDC also appeared to refute practices critics have referred to as “hygiene theater.” These include strict measures taken to sanitize homes and businesses, such as constantly wiping down or “deep cleaning” surfaces using disinfectants and similar chemical cleaning products, according to the Atlantic.
The updated guidelines noted that cleaning surfaces using ordinary soap or detergent, rather than chemical disinfectants, was enough to generally reduce the risk of COVID-19. (RELATED: The CDC Proves Incapable Of Putting Together A Coherent Message On COVID-19 Guidelines)
“There is little scientific support for routine use of disinfectants in community settings, whether indoor or outdoor, to prevent SARS-CoV-2 transmission from fomites,” the agency said. “In public spaces and community settings, available epidemiological data and QMRA studies indicate that the risk of SARS-CoV-2 transmission from fomites is low.”
CDC Director Rochelle Walensky told reporters Monday during a White House press briefing that disinfection is only recommended in indoor settings where there has been a suspected or confirmed COVID-19 case in the last 24 hours.
Walensky also said the risk of surface transmission could be reduced by wearing face masks and properly washing hands.