Protect Yourself from Possible Coronavirus on Fomites in the Office

Researchers have discovered that the coronavirus can be transmitted between people through indirect contact. Recently, a coronavirus patient was diagnosed where he had no direct contact with any confirmed patient. However, the patient's downstairs neighbor was a confirmed patient, and epidemiological investigation found infection was likely to have taken place due to use of the same stairwell.

Viruses commonly die soon after leaving the living body, but is the coronavirus like this? How long can the virus survive on objects? If the novel coronavirus can survive outside the body, how should people protect themselves?

1. How long can the novel coronavirus survive on the objects?

Research has been conducted to determine the survival time of the virus. An expert from Montana issued a research report on March 11 stating that the novel coronavirus can survive on the surface of certain objects for up to 3 days.

Novel coronavirus patients at the Rocky Mountain Laboratory of the National Institutes of Health underwent a study where they simulated coughing and sneezing to release the coronavirus into a contained space. The results showed that the virus can survive on suspended particles in the air for 3 hours, on copper surfaces for 4 hours, on cardboard surfaces for 24 hours, and on plastic and stainless-steel surfaces for 2 to 3 days.

2. What Objects/Places in the office may be dangerous

Given the research mentioned above, there is a risk of contracting the coronavirus when exposed to objects/places in the office. Here are the most likely fomites in the office:


Elevators offer very little ventilation or air capacity. Given the close quarters, sharing an elevator with a coronavirus carrier can almost guarantee transmission if neither person wears a mask.

Alternatively, if a healthy person takes an elevator after a coronavirus carrier has used it, the virus can be transmitted through indirect contact. If the carrier does not wear a mask or take certain precautions, sneezing or coughing while riding the elevator may contaminate any part of the elevator, such as elevator buttons, handrails in the elevator, and even air particles. If anyone touches these places, he/she may also contract the virus.

So how do office workers protect themselves? Always wear a mask in elevators and do not make direct contact with anything in the elevator (buttons, handrails, etc.).

Door handle:

Many people come and go in the office, and, more than likely, everyone needs to touch the door handle to get in and out. No matter what the door handle is made of, the coronavirus is likely to survive on it for at least a few hours.

A tech company in Australia has developed a "foot handle" to replace the existing doorknob and reduce the possibility of virus transmission. When people arrive at the door, they don't have to grasp the door handle with their hands, but rather put their foot on the top of the bottom bracket, and with the help of foot force, they can open the door. This way, people do not have to touch the door handle with their hands and can avoid touching the virus that may exist on the door handle.

Copier and other public goods in the Office:

In the office, there are many other frequently touched objects, such as photocopiers and water dispensers. Companies that still choose to work in the office can consider designating a certain employee to perform tasks such as printing. With a limited pool of people who directly touch such objects, and the probability of infection will be greatly reduced (along with frequent disinfection of these objects).

3. Ways to Protect Yourself from Possible Virus on Public Goods in the Office

Wear masks and gloves.

Wearing a mask is one of the most effective ways to prevent infection and transmission. In addition to wearing masks, it is necessary to wear gloves. There are many public goods in the office, and the coronavirus can survive on them for at least a few hours. Gloves can effectively prevent hands from contacting the coronavirus, reducing the risk of infection.

Wash hands more often.

The World Health Organization's top recommendation for protection against coronavirus infection is washing hands. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also said people need to wash hands with soap and water, alcohol-based hand sanitizers, etc. for at least 20 seconds. Other precautions include avoiding touching the eyes, mouth, and nose with unwashed hands, as the coronavirus can be transmitted through these orifices.

Frequent disinfection.

Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and their surfaces; use paper towels when coughing or sneezing in the office and throw them into the garbage. This way, the virus will not easily stay on commonly used objects or suspended air particles.

The survival time of the coronavirus outside the body is slightly longer than that of other viruses, which is also a challenge for controlling the current pandemic. People still working in the office should touch public goods less, disinfect frequently, and wear masks and gloves.

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