• Thomas Parker

Virus "does not spread easily" from surfaces, CDC says

The novel coronavirus primarily spreads from person to person and not easily from a contaminated surface, according to new guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

CDC spokeswoman Kristen Nordlund said on Thursday that the revisions to CDC guidance were the product of an internal review and "usability testing."

"Our transmission language has not changed," Nordlund said. "COVID-19 spreads mainly through close contact from person to person."

The virus travels through the droplets a person produces when speaking or coughing, the CDC website says. A person does not need to feel sick or show symptoms to spread the virus. The CDC said that about 35% of virus patients do not have symptoms.

Another significant factor in transmission is density of the virus. The virus has spread easily in nursing homes, prisons, cruise ships, and meatpacking plants, all places where people are in close proximity. A recent CDC report described how a choir practice in Washington state in March caused one sick person to infect as many as 52 others.

"Direct contact with people has the highest likelihood of getting infected — being close to an infected person, rather than accepting a newspaper or a FedEx guy dropping off a box,” said virologist Vincent Munster, a researcher in the virus ecology section at Rocky Mountain Laboratories.

The CDC also said that its "best estimate" is that 0.4% of people who do show symptoms and have COVID-19 will die, and that 40% of viral transmission is occurring before people feel sick.

The death projection is based significantly on age. For those over 65 years of age, the CDC expects 1.3% with symptoms to die. For people under age 50, the CDC believes that only 0.05% of symptomatic people will die.

The agency characterizes the numbers as preliminary estimates from federal agencies including the CDC, and are designed to "help inform decisions by modelers and public health officials who utilize mathematical modeling."

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