Rather than posting one of the many articles about the “CDC says coronavirus does not spread easily on surfaces,” we choose to share the CDC guidelines directly with context. On May 11 the CDC guidance on spread of COVID-19 webpage was re-worded to add a heading titled “The virus does not spread easily in other ways” but the wording on “From touching surfaces or objects” is identical. This edit appears to be for clarity and does not reflect a significant change in the understanding of the virus compared to previous verbiage, and we are unsure why this is a breaking news story over the last 17 hours.

Here are the facts:

1) A novel pathogen has been rapidly spreading around the world causing hundreds of thousands of deaths, millions of hospitalizations and unknown long-term health issues.

2) Scientists figured out early on that said virus was transmitted by droplets, but at first were not sure to what extent it was transmitted by aerosols or how much viral exposure a person needs to become ill. Early on, the virus was detected on numerous types of surfaces, hours to days later, and as there had not yet been time to fully study how most people were getting infected and what was the most common route of transmission, the public health statement was that it “may be possible” to pass on the virus from contaminated surfaces. This was the right note of caution as we were still gathering data and had no clear answer yet. We call this the “precautionary principle.”

3) Time passes (though not a lot!) and scientists, working at breakneck speed, have discerned that although there is indeed virus detectable on different surfaces hours to days later that it would be unlikely for someone to become ill with COVID-19 from a contaminated surface, and so far, we’ve not been able to trace a case directly from a surface exposure. (Keep in mind, however, that contact tracing is still ramping up in countries where the virus has most exploded in growth). So far, the evidence suggests most transmission really comes from person-to-person contact via direct droplet exposure and/or aerosol. 

4) The guidelines have been CHANGED to match this new understanding and now it states that the virus does not spread easily by touching surfaces or objects, but still with the caveat, “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 this virus.”

There is no need to be suspicious about guidelines being changed. This is how the scientific process works, and how public health understanding evolves. The rapid spread of this new virus means efforts to slow the spread inherently must outpace the march of science AND be constantly revised as new knowledge is vetted. 

Naturopathic Alliance stands with public health experts in invoking the precautionary principle to protect the health of everyone.

ACTIONS YOU CAN TAKE: 

  • Don’t buy into the outrage about information changing over time. This is a very new situation and our knowledge is evolving.
  • Continue to wash your hands well and clean surfaces that are frequently touched by people who might be infectious. It’s still possible that COVID-19 can be contracted through surfaces, and we already know there are other viruses (like some colds and flus) that are spread in this manner.
  • Share this post with your network to help them understand too.

BLOG POST AUTHORS

Juniper Martin, ND lives and practices in Portland, OR. She is a founding member of the Naturopathic Alliance.

Sean Hesler, ND lives and practices in Gilbert, AZ. He is also a founding member of the Naturopathic Alliance.