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Response to CDC Information About the Spread of COVID-19

    

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Recently, there have been several news stories concerning information on the website of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) about how COVID-19 spreads or is transmitted from person to person.1,2 Several of these news stories are presenting the CDC information in a misleading way by implying that the only important method of COVID-19 spread is through airborne droplets (i.e., from coughs or sneezes from an infected person) and that COVID-19 spread from surface contact is not important. This is false and a misinterpretation of the CDC information and guidance. Here is the information about the spread of COVID-19 directly from the CDC website.3

    • The virus is thought to spread mainly from person-to-person.
      • Between people who are in close contact with one another (within about 6 feet).
      • Through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs, sneezes, or talks.
      • These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs. The virus is thought to spread mainly from person-to-person.
      • COVID-19 may be spread by people who are not showing symptoms.

    • The virus may be spread in other ways.
      • It may be possible that a person can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes. This is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads, but we are still learning more about how this virus spreads.

Although it is clear that the position of the CDC is that the primary method that COVID-19 spreads is through airborne droplets, they also clearly state that other modes of transmission (e.g., from surface contact) are also possible.  They also clearly state that “we are still learning more about how this virus spreads”.  In fact, there are several well done scientific studies on COVID-19 that demonstrates that the SARS-CoV-2 virus (i.e., the virus that causes COVID-19) survives on a surface for many days and that there is significant concentrations of the virus on surfaces which are deposited there by infected people.4,5 Based on these scientific studies and from the information directly on the CDC website that is being largely ignored in the news stories, it is very clear that disinfection of surfaces potentially contaminated by the SARS-CoV-2 virus is important and necessary to control the spread of COVID-19.  This is confirmed by the following guidance that is given on the CDC website concerning methods that people should take to protect themselves against COVID-19.3

    • The best way to prevent illness is to avoid being exposed to this virus. You can take steps to slow the spread.
      • Maintain good social distance (about 6 feet). This is very important in preventing the spread of COVID-19.
      • Wash your hands often with soap and water. If soap and water are not available, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.
      • Routinely clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces.

This final protection method confirms that the CDC still recommends that surfaces should be routinely and frequently disinfected. In fact because of the poor information provided by the news media in the last few days, there have been several news stories clarifying that the CDC’s guidance on disinfection of surfaces has not changed and that this practice should continue.6 Therefore, it is highly recommended that disinfection of surfaces and areas that are potentially contaminated by the SARS-CoV-2 virus be continued on a frequent basis.

References

1. Virus ‘does not spread easily’ from contaminated surfaces or animals, revised CDC websites states, https://www.washingtonpost.com/health/2020/05/21/virus-does-not-spread-easily-contaminated-surfaces-or-animals-revised-cdc-website-states/, Washington Post, May 21, 2020.

2. CDC says COVID-19 not caught easily from surfaces and 40% of transmission occurs before people feel sick, CBS News, https://www.cbsnews.com/news/cdc-coronavirus-doesnt-spread-easily-on-surfaces-transmission-before-symptoms/, May 22, 2020.

3. How COVID-19 Spreads, https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prevent-getting-sick/how-covid-spreads.html, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2020.

4. Stability of SARS-CoV-2 in different environmental conditions, https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lanmic/article/PIIS2666-5247(20)30003-3/fulltext, The Lancet, Volume 1, Issue 1, E10, May 1, 2020.

5. Santarpia, J.L., Transmission Potential of SARS-CoV-2 in Viral Shedding Observed at the University of Nebraska Medical Center, https://www.medrxiv.org/content/10.1101/2020.03.23.20039446v2, March 26, 2020.

6. CDC Advice on Surface Spread of COVID-19 ‘Has Not Changed,’ Agency Says, National Public Radio, https://www.npr.org/sections/coronavirus-live-updates/2020/05/22/861193550/advice-on-surface-spread-of-covid-19-has-not-changed-cdc-says, May 22, 2020.