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Currently, researchers say that there is no evidence of COVID-19 spreading through food:

  • "The risk of getting COVID-19 from food you cook yourself or from handling and consuming food from restaurants and takeout or drive-thru meals is thought to be very low. Currently, there is no evidence that food is associated with spreading the virus that causes COVID-19.
  • "The risk of infection by the virus from food products, food packaging, or bags is thought to be very low. Currently, no cases of COVID-19 have been identified where infection was thought to have occurred by touching food, food packaging, or shopping bags." (source: CDC, updated Dec 31, 2020)

Since I would say eating is one of the more "high transmission" ways of interacting with an infected object, to me this implies that COVID-19 transmission is very low or nonexistent through objects in general. This seems to also be supported by the CDC listing inedible food-related items in the above source, such as packaging or shopping bags.

In spite of this, there are recommendations for extensive cleaning of shared objects:

"[If caring for someone sick at home,] Clean and disinfect “high-touch” surfaces and items every day: This includes tables, doorknobs, light switches, handles, desks, toilets, faucets, sinks, and electronics." (source: CDC, updated Feb 11, 2021)

"Surfaces and objects in public places, such as shopping carts, point of sale keypads, pens, counters, vending machines, and ATMs should be cleaned and disinfected before each use or as much as possible. Other high touch surfaces include: Tables, doorknobs, light switches, countertops, handles, desks, phones, keyboards, toilets, faucets, sinks." (source: CDC, updated Jan 5, 2021)

There are some excerpts that discuss why disinfection is theoretically useful, but since there is no evidence of spread through food, I'm inclined to think this is just precautious assumptions (note that the language is often "it is possible...", not "there is evidence of..."):

"COVID-19 spreads less commonly through contact with contaminated surfaces[.] Respiratory droplets can also land on surfaces and objects. It is possible that a person could get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or eyes. Spread from touching surfaces is not thought to be a common way that COVID-19 spreads" (source: CDC, updated Oct 28, 2020)

Given the above, is disinfecting shared objects actually important for limiting the spread of COVID-19, or are those recommendations based in unsubstantiated claims about COVID-19 transmission?

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