CLEVELAND, Ohio — Wiping surfaces is less important than avoiding crowded indoor gatherings to stop the spread of coronavirus, according to revised guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The updated CDC website now states that touching surfaces or objects is “not thought to be” among the main ways the coronavirus spreads.
“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,” the CDC states. “This is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads, but we are still learning more about this virus.”
The virus mainly travels through the droplets a person produces when talking or coughing. An individual can spread the virus even if he or she doesn’t feel sick or show any symptoms.
Aside from contaminated surfaces, other low-risk ways of spreading the coronavirus are from animals to people, and people to animals, the CDC said.
Early in the COVID-19 pandemic, public health experts emphasized curtailing transmission of the virus from surfaces, said Dr. Keith Armitage, medical director of the University Hospitals Roe Green Center for Travel Medicine & Global Health.
CDC spokeswoman Kristen Nordlund said the revisions were the product of an internal review. “Our transmission language has not changed,” Nordlund said, according to news reports. “COVID-19 spreads mainly through close contact from person to person.”
The CDC made the change because researchers analyzed contact tracing data from infected persons to learn more about how they were exposed to the coronavirus, which has killed more than 1,800 Ohioans, UH’s Armitage said.
Efforts to sanitize high-touch public surfaces, such as doorknobs and elevator buttons, should continue, Armitage said. “We should still be cautious because the potential for infection is still there,” he said.
But it’s more important to avoid indoor gatherings, where an asymptomatic person could easily spread the virus, he said.
When the CDC revises its message, that isn’t proof that science is untrustworthy, Armitage said. Scientists make recommendations based on the best evidence available at that time.
The CDC’s recommendations on wearing face masks also has changed. During the pandemic’s early days, people were told that non-medical masks weren’t helpful. Now researchers say that widespread use of face coverings helps curb the spread of the virus.