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VERIFY: NIH study shows coronavirus can survive hours in the air, days on surfaces

New data from a joint study looks at the coronavirus’ survivability on different surfaces.


Since the novel coronavirus was first discovered back in December 2019, scientists and health officials have been gauging its ability to survive on different surfaces by comparing it to SARS in 2003.

Both were coronaviruses, so experts believed that they would have similar characteristics. 

A new study by the National Institutes of Health, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and scientists at Princeton and UCLA is giving the first look at the current virus’s ability to survive on surfaces. The results show that the previous estimations weren’t far off.


“The scientists found that severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) was detectable in aerosols for up to three hours, up to four hours on copper, up to 24 hours on cardboard and up to two to three days on plastic and stainless steel,” A summary by the NIH reads. “The results provide key information about the stability of SARS-CoV-2, which causes COVID-19 disease, and suggests that people may acquire the virus through the air and after touching contaminated objects.”

Scientists tested the virus on five different environments:

  • Aerosol
  • Copper
  • Cardboard
  • Stainless Steel
  • Plastic

The main findings represent how long the virus CAN survive, but that doesn’t mean that it always WILL:

  • Aerosol: Less than 3 hours
  • Copper: Less than 4 hours
  • Cardboard: Less than 24 hours
  • Stainless Steel: Less than 72 hours
  • Plastic: Less than 72 hours

Officials said the virus’s survivability is impacted by outside factors like temperature and humidity, but the test was conducted in a controlled environment. The temperature was kept between 70-73 degrees and a 40-percent humidity was maintained.

This means that in a perfect lab environment, the virus can survive this long, however in a real-world situation, other factors could lower survivability.

The main takeaway here is that individuals should be cautious of most surfaces right now. People should avoid touching their face and mouth, and as always, keep on washing their hands.

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