As the coronavirus continues to spread across the country, disinfectants are flying off the shelves and hand-washing remains the most touted method of prevention, but how do we clean our mail? Should we even be cleaning it? Well, rest easy: Preliminary testing suggests that you can't get COVID19 from mail or packages. Even if the interior contents had trace amounts of the virus, the time traveled passes over the surface life of the novel coronavirus.
"Importantly, the CDC, the World Health Organization, as well as the Surgeon General have indicated that there is currently no evidence that COVID-19 is being spread through the mail," Dave Partenheimer, spokesperson for the USPS, confirmed over email.
Why Do Cruise Ships Have Trace Amounts 17 Days After Evacuation?
In a new report, released by the CDC on Monday, an inspection on the Diamond Princess Cruise Ship revealed the virus was still on-board despite passengers disembarking 17 days ago. Home to 712 infected passengers and crew, the Diamond Princess was such a large hotspot of transmission it has retained a separate notation on the international COVID19 tracker.
Scientists are still testing the cruise ship the path of transmission but maintain the cruise ships have a high rate of transmission naturally. Limited air flow, close quarters, and shared spaces all create a higher potential for contagions to travel than normal. While they still don't fully understand why the virus has survived so long on the cruise ship, updates will be posted regularly on the CDC website.
Coronavirus Lives Longer on Plastic and Metal Than Cardboard
International labs have come together to test COVID19 transmission in an attempt to reduce the spread of the contagious virus. The New England Journal of Medicine recently published a report on the surface life of coronavirus via aerosol.
Spraying a layer of the virus on a variety of surfaces, scientists found the coronavirus lasts 3x longer on plastic and metal (excluding copper) than on paper and cardboard. This may be a factor on the virus's lifespan on the Diamond Princess, but the 24-hour lifespan of coronavirus on cardboard shouldn't be too alarming.
Doctors remain adamant that the risk of smear transmission, or the infection traveling through touch of an infected surface, remains low. People should stay cautious and refrain from touching their face despite the limited evidence of smear transmission.
"Currently there is no evidence to support transmission of COVID-19 associated with imported goods and there have not been any cases of COVID-19 in the United States associated with imported goods." the CDC said in an FAQ on COVID19.
Delivery Services Release COVID19 Protocols
Mail carriers have emphasized new processes for mail delivery and sick leave will protect the population from transmission during delivery. Amazon alone plans on adding 100,000 workers to their roster after a string of infections across the national warehouses.
Here's a breakdown of how services are handling COVID-19:
- Amazon has suspended warehouse work during cleaning, but warehouses remain open to keep up with high demand. They are offering 14 days of paid leave to workers who have contracted COVID-19 or have come in contact.
- UPS has adjusted their free UPS My Choice tool to allow delivery instructions for Coronavirus including where workers should deliver packages and is following WHO and CDC protocols for safe workspaces.
- FedEx is allowing customers to request health questionnaires for its local deliverymen and participation is at the discretion of the driver. They have closed or reduced store hours and asked sick employees to stay home for the recommended 14 day period.
- USPS is suspending signatures on packages and deliver packages from the six feet recommended distance. They have petitioned the government for more funding to keep operational during the crisis.
How To Disinfect Your Mail
Experts understand that mail disinfections can do more for your mental health than your physical health during this pandemic.
“I think if you start thinking about money and mail and things like that, you can almost sort of immobilize yourself, which I don’t think is a good idea,” Anthony Fauci, Director of NIAID, said in a CNN town hall.
Dr. Elizabeth Scott, Co-Director of the Undergraduate Public Health program and Simmons Center for Hygiene and Health in Home and Community at Simmons College, points to the study in the New England Journal of Medicine as a cause of concern, citing the virus does appear to have a lifespan of 24 hours on cardboard.
"I am opening the packages on the floor and quickly putting the cardboard in the recycling/trash and then immediately washing my hands very thoroughly. Leaving the package on the porch or on the floor for 24h is also an option, followed by the routine I described," Scott said in an email interview.
Here's what experts recommend to kill off any traces of the coronavirus on your mail and packages:
- Set aside mail for 24 hours. Designate a corner or room for new packages and leave them isolated for at least 24 hours.
- Always wash your hands and refrain from touching your face after opening packages.
- Wait for packages/mail to be left a safe distance away before collecting them.
Regardless of disinfecting your mail, the CDC and WHO recommends washing your hands for at least 20 seconds, refrain from touching your face, keep informed of shelter in place and social distancing protocols, and stay at home for 14 days if you experience any flu-like symptoms or have come in contact with anyone with these symptoms.
Follow House Beautiful on Instagram.
You Might Also Like