We've been operating under the assumption that there's danger in catching the virus on everything we touch. Now experts are saying that's not necessarily true.

For months, we've been quarantining packages that arrive in the mail, using disinfectant on our hands after touching anything in the outside world, and religiously wiping down every surface in our homes with Clorox wipes. But now, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has updated their statement about how the coronavirus spreads, saying that it "does not spread easily" by touching surfaces or objects, though it's still possible.

Dr. John Whyte, the chief medical officer at WebMD, says the updated information may help reduce anxiety and stress as we attempt to return to "normal."

“Many people were concerned that by simply touching an object they may get coronavirus, and that’s simply not the case. Even when a virus may stay on a surface, it doesn’t mean that it’s actually infectious,” Whyte said.

The CDC's updated guidelines state: "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."

disinfecting phone

The main way that the coronavirus spreads is from person to person, the revised guidelines confirm. They also state that the virus is not easily transmitted between people and animals, which is more good news.

“I think this new guideline helps people understand more about what does and doesn’t increase risk," Whyte said. "It doesn’t mean we stop washing hands and disinfecting surfaces. But it does allow us to be practical and realistic as we try to return to a sense of normalcy.” 

Below is the verbiage of the new information, taken directly from the CDC's website:

How COVID-19 Spreads

COVID-19 is thought to spread mainly through close contact from person-to-person. Some people without symptoms may be able to spread the virus. We are still learning about how the virus spreads and the severity of illness it causes.

Person-to-person spread

The virus is thought to spread mainly from person-to-person.

  • Between people who are in close contact with one another (within about 6 feet).
  • Through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs, sneezes, or talks.
  • These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs.
  • COVID-19 may be spread by people who are not showing symptoms.

The virus spreads easily between people

How easily a virus spreads from person-to-person can vary. Some viruses are highly contagious, like measles, while other viruses do not spread as easily. Another factor is whether the spread is sustained, which means it goes from person-to-person without stopping.

The virus that causes COVID-19 is spreading very easily and sustainably between people. Information from the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic suggest that this virus is spreading more efficiently than influenza, but not as efficiently as measles, which is highly contagious.

The virus does not spread easily in other ways

COVID-19 is a new disease and we are still learning about how it spreads. It may be possible for COVID-19 to spread in other ways, but these are not thought to be the main ways the virus spreads.

  • From touching surfaces or objects. 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.
  • From animals to people. At this time, the risk of COVID-19 spreading from animals to people is considered to be low. Learn about COVID-19 and pets and other animals.
  • From people to animals. It appears that the virus that causes COVID-19 can spread from people to animals in some situations. CDC is aware of a small number of pets worldwide, including cats and dogs, reported to be infected with the virus that causes COVID-19, mostly after close contact with people with COVID-19. Learn what you should do if you have pets.

Protect yourself and others

The best way to prevent illness is to avoid being exposed to this virus. You can take steps to slow the spread.

Learn more about what you can do to protect yourself and others.