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How long does COVID live on surfaces?
A person walks into a store or office building, unknowingly carrying the COVID-19 virus. Just before he reaches for the door handle he sneezes into his right hand. Without thinking, he grabs the door handle with that COVID-infected hand.
According to new research, the COVID germs this person wiped on the door handle could still be there nearly a month later.
When the virus first arrived in the U.S., there were a number of questions about how it could be transmitted and how long does COVID live on surfaces. Continued research around the globe is starting to answer those questions.
Earlier this month, Australia’s national science agency, CSIRO, reported the results of research on COVID-19 lifespan on surfaces.
What they found is that COVID on surfaces can last up to 28 days. This includes paper currency, glass and stainless steel. The research found that COVID on surfaces survived longer at lower temperatures and on non-porous surfaces.
"At 20 degrees Celsius, which is about room temperature, we found that the virus was extremely robust, surviving for 28 days on smooth surfaces such as glass found on mobile phone screens and plastic banknotes,” said Dr. Debbie Eagles, deputy director of Australian Centre for Disease Preparedness (ACDP), which has been working on both understanding the virus and testing a potential vaccine.
"Establishing how long the virus really remains viable on surfaces enables us to more accurately predict and mitigate its spread, and do a better job of protecting our people," said CSIRO Chief Executive Dr. Larry Marshall.
The Australian research gives the virus a much longer lifespan on surfaces than previous studies had shown.
In March, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) found that SARS-CoV-2 remained active on plastic and stainless steel surfaces for two to three days.
"Our results show that SARS-CoV-2 can remain infectious on surfaces for long periods of time, reinforcing the need for good practices such as regular handwashing and cleaning surfaces," Dr Eagles said.
The Centers of Disease Control advises that frequently touched surfaces and objects need routine disinfection. This includes door handles for interior and exterior doors that require users to pull to open.
Whether COVID-19 lives on surfaces for a few days or a few weeks, commonly touched surfaces like restroom door handles and other door handles can’t be disinfected after every time they are touched. Therefore, if a person with COVID-19 touches a door handle, it’s possible the next person can pick up the virus and infect themselves by touching their face.
While people are washing their hands and using hand sanitizer more frequently because of COVID-19, it’s not a habit for everybody. Businesses and consumers can't impact whether others are washing their hands so the best approach is to eliminate as many touchpoint as possible.
That means businesses in the post coronavirus world should help employees and visitors avoid touching door handles.
This can be done by installing hands-free door openers like StepNpull on all common doors, especially restroom doors. A door foot pull will minimize how often employees touch germ-infested door handles with their hands.
Now is the time to install hands-free door openers, as the research shows that COVID lasts longer on colder surfaces. That means exterior doors will potentially become even greater germ hotspots as winter weather sets in.