WHEN SHOULD I WORRY ABOUT...

How Long Can Coronavirus Survive on Packages?

April 27, 2020 - Katie McCallum

The new coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic is changing our day-to-day life in many ways. For some of us, it means choosing delivery over shopping at the store way more than usual — resulting in more packages at your doorstep.

And even if you're not getting more deliveries than usual, you still may be wondering: Should I be taking extra precautions with packages and deliveries during COVID-19?

Coronavirus can spread from person-to-person via respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs, but these infectious respiratory droplets can also land on surfaces. If the virus can survive on a surface — say, a package — could touching this contaminated surface make you sick?

Can coronavirus survive on packages?

We're still learning the specifics about how long coronavirus can survive on surfaces, but early evidence indicates that the virus can live on various surfaces anywhere from several hours to several days.

The virus seems to be able to survive on cardboard for about 24 hours, and on plastic for up to three days.

However, it's important to know that the amount of virus detectable on a surface reduces sharply with time — with significantly less infectious virus on cardboard, for example, in as little as four hours. In addition, these numbers come from experiments performed in ideal laboratory conditions, which differ from our everyday environmental conditions.

While it's possible for the new coronavirus to survive on packaging material, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that it's unlikely for the virus to be spread via mail and packages.

Rather, the CDC says that person-to-person transmission via close contact with an infected individual — even if that individual appears healthy — is still the most likely way to spread the new coronavirus. This means that social distancing, washing your hands and covering coughs, wearing a cloth mask in public, and cleaning and disinfecting commonly touched surfaces are still the most effective ways to protect yourself from COVID-19.

Tips for handling packages and deliveries

While surface-to-person transmission of COVID-19 via packages is technically feasible, it's unlikely — especially if you're following guidelines for protecting yourself from the virus.

Here are tips for keeping yourself safe while accepting packages and deliveries:

  • Avoid close contact with the delivery person. Ask for contact-free delivery, recommending that the package be left in a safe space outside your home. At the very least, be sure to maintain six feet of distance between yourself and the delivery person.

  • Wash your hands after handling a package. After discarding the packaging, be sure to wash your hands thoroughly with either soap and water or alcohol-based hand sanitizer.

  • Disinfect surfaces. For instance, if you set the package down on your kitchen counter while opening it, disinfect the counter using either household cleaner or a diluted bleach solution you can make at home.

  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth. The good news it that the virus can't infect you through your skin. But, you can get sick if it's on your hands and you touch your eyes, nose or mouth. This means you should avoid touching your face as much as possible.

 

If you're still really nervous about your packages, you can leave them untouched in an isolated space for several hours — possibly a whole day — or disinfect the package before opening it.

 

Concerned you may have COVID-19?

  • If you're experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, you can speak to a Virtual Urgent Care provider 24/7. The provider will help you determine if testing is needed and advise you on where you should go.
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