COVID-19 Day 71: CDC now says COVID doesn’t spread easily from surfaces. People alarmed.

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It’s ironic that an update to the CDC web page “How COVID-19 Spreads” which makes coronavirus sound less ‘alarming’, has lead to people to be alarmed. Periodic updates would, under normal circumstances, be welcomed. So it’s interesting to see a reaction on social media that range from frustration to fear.

The CDC maintains pages providing their official understanding of how COVID-19 is spread and guidance in how to reduce new infections. Sometime in the last few weeks they updated the page, which sparked a number of news headlines.

CDC now says coronavirus ‘does not spread easily’ via contaminated surfaces

Fox News https://www.foxnews.com/health/cdc-now-says-coronavirus-does-not-spread-easily-via-contaminated-surfaces


Coronavirus does not spread easily from touching surfaces, CDC now says

NBC’s Today Show https://www.today.com/health/new-cdc-guidance-coronavirus-doesn-t-spread-easily-touching-surfaces-t182194

Comments on social media range from frustration to suspicion; some going so far as promoting ‘hoax pandemic’, mind-control agendas. The reality is much more mundane. Hanlon’s Razor is best used here: Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity. 

A web archive search pulls up the old version of the CDC web page and comparing it to the new page shows nearly identical paragraphs. The main changes are in the title of the paragraph, ‘The virus does not spread easily in other ways‘ from ‘Spread from contact with contaminated surfaces or objects‘. Unfortunately the CDC didn’t cite changes to the page or archive the older page.

OLD

Spread from contact with contaminated surfaces or objects

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 is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads.

https://web.archive.org/web/20200328203140/https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prevent-getting-sick/how-covid-spreads.html

NEW

The virus does not spread easily in other ways

From touching surfaces or objects. 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. This is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads, but we are still learning more about this virus.

From animals to people. At this time, the risk of COVID-19 spreading from animals to people is considered to be low. Learn about COVID-19 and pets and other animals.

From people to animals. It appears that the virus that causes COVID-19 can spread from people to animals in some situations. CDC is aware of a small number of pets worldwide, including cats and dogs, reported to be infected with the virus that causes COVID-19, mostly after close contact with people with COVID-19. Learn what you should do if you have pets.

Overall these changes are very minor and mostly to the organization of information on the page. So why are reactions more likely frustration instead of relief? Perhaps it’s exasperation from efforts taken and now seemingly pointless? Perhaps it stems from disbelief, like when the CDC abruptly did a 180 on the use of face-masks. Or perhaps it’s fatigue at the lack of certainty about the risks we’re taking?

It’s important to point out that even these minor changes are positive news. We shouldn’t fear touching things with our bare hands, though we should continue to wash and disinfect often for general good health. What we should take away from all this are these words at the top of both the new and old CDC page, ‘COVID-19 is a new disease and we are still learning how it spreads.’


SOURCES

https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prevent-getting-sick/how-covid-spreads.html

https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/about/transmission.html

https://www.foxnews.com/health/cdc-now-says-coronavirus-does-not-spread-easily-via-contaminated-surfaces

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