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'How long does it stay on surfaces?' and other coronavirus questions that continue to be asked

There's a lot of news and information to sort through out there.

ATLANTA — How long does coronavirus stay on surfaces? How does it spread? Do you still have to go to work and school?

And endless stream of news and information about coronavirus can be difficult to sort out, and some important basics about the virus remain unclear to many people.

Here are some points of uncertainty 11Alive continues to hear from viewers and, hopefully, some clarity.

If you have more questions, text "virus" to us for the latest information at 404-873-9114.

Q: How long does coronavirus stay on surfaces?

A: This is probably not a satisfying answer, but it's the best one available: The World Health Organization says the virus "may persist on surfaces for a few hours or up to several days."

More practically speaking, that means if you have reason to believe someone with symptoms may have been around a space, and that space hasn't been disinfected, the safest thing to do is go ahead and clean it. Whether that's been a few minutes, a few hours or a few days.

Additionally, Harvard Medical School says there's evidence that the virus can spread more easily on "frequently-touched hard surfaces," like a door knob, than soft surfaces, like a carpet. 

Q: Can the coronavirus be carried on packages?

A: This is what the CDC has to say: "In general, because of poor survivability of these coronaviruses on surfaces, there is likely very low risk of spread from products or packaging that are shipped over a period of days or weeks at ambient temperatures."

Q: How do you kill coronavirus?

A: There are a number of common household cleaners the Environmental Protection Agency recommends for coronavirus disinfecting. You can find that list here: EPA issues list of disinfectants to use against coronavirus

Q: How does coronavirus spread?

A: According to the CDC, the main way it spreads is from close person-to-person contact (within six feet) and through tiny airborne droplets that come out of an infected person's cough or sneeze.

As noted in the last answer, it can also spread from contact with infected surfaces or objects, though the CDC notes it is not thought to be the main way it spreads.

Q: Are people without symptoms contagious?

A: Again, maybe not the most satisfying answer you're hoping for, but: Possibly.

The CDC says it might be possible for people to spread the illness before showing symptoms though, again, this is not thought to be a main way it spreads.

If you know someone who may have been exposed and isn't showing symptoms, just use best practices - avoid close touching and wash your hands.

READ: Best practices for coronavirus prevention

Q: How long do you need to wash your hands to kill coronavirus?

A: At least 20 seconds. You should wash after going to the bathroom, before eating, and after blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing.

Q: Who is at risk of coronavirus?

A: Broadly speaking, the people most at risk are those who are older.

Children, actually, have fared well against this virus - according to NPR, in China, they found that less than 1% of cases occurred in kids age 9 and under, and only 1.2% in kids age 10-19. There were hardly any reports of severe cases among children.

Nearly 80% of cases occurred in people aged 30-69, and the death rate among those aged 60 and older ranged from 20-30%.

People with immune system disorders, as with other viruses, are also at higher risk.

Q: Should you stay home from work?

A: If you feel you may have been exposed and begin feeling sick, you absolutely must stay home.

Otherwise, it's a difficult question to answer that is ultimately going to be determined by your employer. Some companies, such as Gas South, are already having employees work from home.

RELATED: Atlanta-based Gas South employees will work from home in preparation for coronavirus disruptions

Q: Should you still go to school?

A: Again, if you're feeling sick, do not under any circumstances still go to school.

And, again, the difficult answer is that if your school continues to schedule regular classes, you're going to be required to attend them. 

Public officials are reluctant to begin closing up schools, which was done in 2009 during the swine flu outbreak. That was found to be was "too disruptive," as the principal deputy director of the CDC, Dr. Anne Schuchat, said earlier this week.

So, the short answer is, in the absence of truly extraordinary circumstances, you're probably going to have to keep going to schools. Here's how Atlanta-area districts are planning: Here's how metro Atlanta area school systems are planning for a coronavirus outbreak

Q: Should you still go to public gatherings, such as sporting events?

A: Obviously, staying at home will expose you to fewer people than going to an Atlanta United game. Still, right now public officials are stressing that life has to go on. Any time you leave the house, you run the risk of catching many sicknesses besides just coronavirus. 

This is ultimately going to be up to you.


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