At the beginning of the pandemic, we were all encouraged to let our packages and groceries sit outside for fear that a Covid-positive Amazon driver, or fellow grocery shopper, might have sneezed onto our boxes and green beans. So, we were advised to pick up our deliveries and groceries with gloves and place them in our garages until we felt sure the virus had sufficient time to die. Time has brought new knowledge, and new knowledge has illustrated that taking these precautions are not as necessary as they seemed when Covid was more novel to us.
The most important measure we can take to prevent the likelihood of contracting Covid in our homes is to wash our hands regularly. Let’s say you do go grocery shopping, and, somehow, all your vegetables are contaminated with the virus. The best thing you could do is put your groceries away and wash your hands. Wiping down the counter with a disinfectant would be useful, as well. However, contracting Covid from a surface is not as likely as contracting it from shaking a Covid-positive person’s hand [1,2].
Covid is not as potent when on a surface compared to living in another body; without a host, the virus starts breaking down very quickly. For example, research has found that Covid can live in the air for up to 3 hours, yet, it has been determined that the half-life, or time it takes for half of the molecules to breakdown, of Covid molecules in the air is about 1 hour. This means that there are very few remaining viable Covid molecules in the air at the 3-hour mark, and the risk of contracting Covid from breathing in that air at hour three post-contamination is very low [2,3,4].
Despite the little attention that should be paid to the potential of the virus being on packages and surfaces in comparison to the amount of attention that should be allotted to washing your hands and social distancing, research has found that the virus can live on stainless steel and plastics for up to 3 days, on cardboard for up to 24 hours, and on copper for up to 4 hours [1,3].
Although, it would be beneficial to disinfect surfaces, it would not be helpful to disinfect food items. You would be more likely to get sick from the disinfectant on your food than to contract Covid from an infected squash. Simply rinsing off your fruits and vegetables with water suffices when combatting the virus on produce [3,4].
If someone in your house contracts Covid, then for your safety, you should wear a mask, always maintain 6 feet of separation, disinfect the counters, try to increase air circulation by opening a window, and wash your hands regularly (1,2).
It’s important to remember that stress decreases the efficiency and potency of your immune response. So, make sure to not stress too much about disinfecting all your surfaces. Try to stay as safe as you can without making life that much more stressful for yourself.
1. Ayenigbara. I. O., Adeleke, O. R. Ayenigbara, G. O., Adegboro, J. S., & Olofintuyi, O.
O. (2020). COVID-19 (SARS-CoV-2) pandemic: fears, facts and preventive measures. Germs, 10(3), 218. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/artciles/PMC7572217/
2. Bukhari, M. H., Mahmood, K., & Zahra, S. A. (2020). Overview for the truth of COVID-
19 pandemic: A guide for the pathologists, Health care workers and community’. Pakistan Journal of Medical Sciences, 36(COVID19-S4), S111. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7306957/
3. Ackerman, E. (2020). Autonomous robots are helping kill coronavirus in hospitals. IEEE
4. Ainsworth, B., Miller, S., Denison-Day, J., Stuart, B., Groor, J., Rice, C.,… & Yardley,
L. (2021). Infection control behavior at home during the COVID-19 pandemic: observational study of a web based behavioral intervention (germ defence). Journal of medical internet research 23(2), e22197.
Author: Katrina Peavy
Editor: Lauryn Agron
Health scientist: Keeana Bacchus