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More Coronavirus Spread by Shared Airspace than by Surfaces… But Keep Washing Your Hands!

You can get coronavirus by breathing in cooties from an infected person. You can get coronavirus by touching stuff an infected person has touched and then picking your nose. But because disease spread is statistical, and because breathing involves one less step that touching, the CDC says transmission from surfaces is less likely to make you sick than transmission from airspace proximity:

The primary and most important mode of transmission for COVID-19 is through close contact from person-to-person. Based on data from lab studies on COVID-19 and what we know about similar respiratory diseases, 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, but this isn’t thought to be the main way the virus spreads [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, press release, 2020.05.22].

So can we quit washing our hands and scrubbing our countertops and door handles? No, dummy:

A number of studies of flu, rhinovirus, coronavirus and other microbes have shown that respiratory illnesses, including the new coronavirus, can spread by touching contaminated surfaces, particularly in places like day care centers, offices and hospitals.

“What they’re saying is that high touch surfaces like railings and doorknobs, elevator buttons are not the primary driver of the infection in the United States,” said Erin Bromage, a comparative immunologist and biology professor at the University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth. “But it’s still a bad idea to touch your face. If someone who is infectious coughs on their hand and shakes your hand and you rub your eyes — yes, you’re infected. Someone’s drinking from a glass, and you pick it up near the rim and later rub your eyes or mouth, you’re infected” [Tara Parker-Pope, “What’s the Risk of Catching Coronavirus from a Surface?New York Times, 2020.05.28].

Catching covid-19 and other respiratory diseases depends on increased levels of exposure. You’ll likely carry more coronavirus directly into your lungs from breathing in a confined space where an infected person is breathing or sneezing than you will from touching any surface in the same space and then expecting those cooties to make the long slog from your finger into your facial orifices and through your various mucous membranes down to where they do their damage.

But that’s likelihood, not certainty. Coronavirus travels through the air, but it also lingers on surfaces to make incautious people sick.

So keep wearing your mask, keep washing your hands… and keep your booger-pickin’ fingers off my stuff.


  1. Moses6 2020-05-28 08:14

    So 34000 of may have had signs of this virus.Cory who do I thank for not letting me take the test.The liar Trump said any one who wants a test can get a test.Where is the cowgirl Governor who should have been fighting for all people of this state to get testing. We need to do better than her.

  2. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2020-05-28 11:57

    Thank ’em both, Moses. Thank every leader who ignores science and tries to wish hard facts away. Thank every leader who has refused to use his or her position of power to model safe, responsible civic behavior to promote public health.

    Wear your mask. Wash your hands. And for Pete’s sake, don’t lick envelopes.

  3. jerry 2020-05-28 18:43

    28.41 miles of Covid19 dead, that’s what 100,000 killed by trump and his republican senators looks like. Thanks to EB5 Rounds and Snow Flake Thune, this is where we are at.
    “100,000 dead (but upright) from Covid-19 X 1.5 feet per person = 150,000 feet of people in our line.

    150,000 feet divided by 5,280 feet (a statute mile) = 28.41 miles!”

    Of course we are closer to a 50 mile walk when you get an actual count of the dead.

  4. mike from iowa 2020-05-28 19:12

    You are a little short there, Jerry….


  5. Debbo 2020-05-28 20:44

    GOP members of the Pennsylvania legislature had COVID-19 and knew it. The GOP “leadership” told them to come anyway and infect the Democrats.

    Can’t get much scummier than that. That’s Rand Paul scummy level. The Democrats have learned of the GOP scheme and it’s getting very nasty in PA.

  6. Ryan 2020-05-29 10:52

    It was nice to see so many people with masks the last couple times at the grocery store, but I think in the last week or so, the masks have started to disappear. Probably not good.

    jerry, south korea’s numbers are climbing again. You remember south korea, right? One of those model countries that did things right and didn’t have trump to blame? Who is to blame for the dead people around the world that don’t live under the reign of stupid trump? You’ll probably blame trump for that, too, right? That’s easier than thinking critically.

  7. mike from iowa 2020-05-29 14:26

    US covid deaths hit 104k today. Two weeks after Wisconsin’s disgusting wingnut majority supreme court tossed stay at home, Wisconsin recorded the highest single day total of new cases and the single day high for deaths.

    As for South Korea, maybe you should wait for official word from their health directors before crediting anything to drumpf.

  8. jerry 2020-05-29 14:34

    South Korea is acting quickly to contain and has done so. The lead they set regarding sending their children back to school is certainly the practice we Americans should take as has Denmark. These are all models we should follow very closely. I like South Korea, China, Vietnam, and all of the Asian countries for their constant vigilance for their citizens. Taiwan is another good example. BTW, for two days in a row, China reports not one new case. Booyah!!

    Yes, I think the NATO country’s were lead to believe that the virus was a hoax. After all, your bro trump said so, remember that?. They didn’t take the precautions that needed to be taken as they follow the lead of the leader of NATO, the United States. The bully who has told NATO over and over again how important the US is and how we really don’t need them to do anything but follow our lead. On top of that, I blame EB5 Short Rounds and his ignorant sidekick, Thune for not impeaching trump’s sorry arse to save what is left of us. Watching the economy swirling down the pipe is not a pleasant thing to see, but it is what it is. No plan, no leadership and no damn testing. We float like that last bit of toilet paper getting ready to go down the drain.

    There, that is critical thinking…thank you again for the opportunity.

  9. Ryan 2020-05-29 15:13

    You love to pretend I support trump in some way, but you either can’t read or are choosing to ignore what you read. Either option makes you a less than reliable source for anything other than a good chuckle from time to time.

    I have said it over and over. Trump is a moron. I didn’t vote for him in 2016 and I won’t vote for him in november. But, pretending he is to blame for all the people who died from covid is dumb, bro. Prove me right by telling me who is to blame for all the dead people outside of US jurisdiction, eh?

  10. jerry 2020-05-29 15:31

    China has zero new cases of Covid19!! Booyah! For two days running now, how about that! They’re getting so healthy that they would like to buy some beans from us, but we are too damn stupid to sell them, or we don’t want to rock the boat.

  11. Debbo 2020-05-29 17:56

    The Roger Cornelius Memorial Cartoon by Marty Two Bulls:

  12. jerry 2020-05-29 18:11

    Wow, Debbo, that is some kind of strong message there. Appropriate and still no plans for school kids. August in service comes pretty quickly and all Queen NOem wants to do is fight with the Natives. She needs to take off the hoops and do her damn job and get some plans together for the safety of our kids and our teachers. No tests, no testing and no one to do either. What a sorry failed empty dress.

  13. bearcreekbat 2020-05-29 19:01

    While Ryan is correct that Trump cannot be blamed for “all” COVID 19 deaths in the world, I’m not sure what the point is since I have seen no one blame Trump for “all” COVID 19 deaths.

    But it does seem beyond dispute that Trump’s failure as a leader is more than a mere correlation with the fact that the US has over 100,000 deaths which is over 30% of the deaths worldwide even though the United States population is equivalent to 4.25% of the total world population. There is also evidence that this number could have been reduced by 90% had the President responded rationally to the threat rather than playing ostrich with his head in the sand.

    No one can really blame Trump for “all” COVID deaths but anyone that minimizes Trump’s damage to the people of our country denies reality. I don’t read Ryan’s comments as necessarily minimizing Trump’s responsibility as President, but others might perceive his arguments differently.

    And while Trump is not responsible for “all” COVID deaths in the world, it would seem naive to overlook his influence on the choice of disastrous policies adopted by leaders of other countries, many of which may also have resulted in more deaths than necessary.

  14. jerry 2020-05-29 22:00

    trump and the republican senators have infected our food supply lines folks. The “essential workers” providing our food, are sick and dying all over this country. They are sick and dying in Sioux Falls, in Aberdeen, in Huron while we watch and do nothing. No plan, no testing, know nothing leadership from the governor here. Dump trump. Replace EB5 Short Rounds while you think about what they have done to this country. Over 100,000 deaths, over 40 million jobless, a dangerous food situation for the country. Why would you want to rinse and repeat?

    “One farm in Tennessee distributed Covid-19 tests to all of its workers after an employee came down with the virus. It turned out that every single one of its roughly 200 employees had been infected.

    In New Jersey, more than 50 workers had the virus at a farm in Gloucester County, adding to nearly 60 who fell ill in neighboring Salem County. Washington state’s Yakima County, an agricultural area that produces apples, cherries, pears and most of the nation’s hops, has the highest per capita infection rate of any county on the West Coast.”

    We have few if any inspectors on the job to make sure what we eat is not contaminated so wash whatever you get very well. If you are not getting your beef and pork locally from the local butcher shop, I would pass on it. Buy locally produced meats as the rest is probably not locally produced beef and pork in the first place. Who knows where it came from..

  15. Ryan 2020-05-29 22:22

    Bcb, several people including jerry and mike and others on here have specifically blamed trump repeatedly for the totality of the incredibly sad body count

  16. grudznick 2020-05-29 22:29

    A greater man than grudznick or Mr. bat once said mob-rule might be cool, but it breeds three pathologies:
    – the mob, once assembled, often attacks the innocent
    – the mob, once assembled, encourages those fellow who are lawless in spirit ti become lawless in fact
    – the mob, once assembled, discourages the good fellows who see lives and property destroyed lose faith in the free and good government

    It was A.L. who said these things. He knew mobs.

    This is why The Mob must be hammered down with a good thick stick, thumping them hard.

  17. jerry 2020-05-29 23:13

    70% of the death, on trump and the republican senators. So that means at least 70,000 deaths are the direct result of trump and his republican senators fault. I stand by that.

    I did not know that Art Linkletter knew about the mob Mr. grudznick. He was so kind though, who knew about the good thick stick and the thumping. Learn something new every day.

  18. grudznick 2020-05-29 23:48

    Mr. jerry, are you with The Mob, or are you against The Mob?

    The Mob wants to know, so I’m just askin…

  19. jerry 2020-05-29 23:56

    That was dropped in Afghanistan and didn’t do anything but make a bang…just sayin…

  20. bearcreekbat 2020-05-30 01:47

    Ryan, my statement was about how I perceived the comments I read, namely that no one here had blamed Trump for “all” the COVID deaths in the world, which your responses referenced when you wrote:

    . . . Who is to blame for the dead people around the world that don’t live under the reign of stupid trump? You’ll probably blame trump for that, too, right? . . .

    . . . But, pretending he is to blame for all the people who died from covid is dumb, bro. Prove me right by telling me who is to blame for all the dead people outside of US jurisdiction, eh? . . .

    Two early comments, if taken literally, arguably blamed “trump and his republican senators” (rather than Trump alone) for 100,000 deaths and 103,329, which then were essentially all COVID deaths in the US, but I did not take them as literally blaming every single death on Trump, but as a reference to the approximate current death count for the US. I will defer to jerry, mike and the unnamed others you mentioned to clarify their positions to show I misunderstood their comments if they see fit.

    In my view, the more important point is to recognize that Trump’s failed leadership has in fact caused way too many unnecessary COVID deaths rather than to quibble about whether it is “all” deaths or only “90 percent” of US deaths as calculated by the earlier referenced medical experts or even some other number or percentage.

  21. mike from iowa 2020-05-30 07:49

    I hold drumpf personally responsible for covid deaths in America due to his 2 months of referring to it as a hoax and his inactions into March when he could have had a good shot at containment had he acted presidential back in January and February.

    Which is why I call the drumpf body count the drumpf body count. At present time the count is 104,550 bodies. › coronavirus › country › us

  22. mike from iowa 2020-05-30 16:34

    drumpf body count surpasses another milestone…


    Open them states so more people can get infected.

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