Doctors give suggestions on handling mail and packages amid coronavirus pandemic

Posted at 3:28 PM, Mar 30, 2020

TAMPA--Can coronavirus stick to your mail and packages? It's a question many people have when they run to the mailbox or even pick up groceries at the store.

The National Institutes of Health says a study suggested the virus that causes COVID-19 can stay on surfaces like plastic and stainless steel for up to three days. The study also found the virus can live on cardboard for up to 24 hours.

"The question exists, just because the virus has the capacity to survive on these surfaces, we don’t know that just that living virus can then turn into an infection as well," said Dr. Paul Nanda of Tampa General Hospital Urgent Care.

The CDC reported it may be possible to get coronavirus after touching a contaminated surface and then touching your face, though the World Health Organization says that likelihood is low. The virus is thought to spread mainly person to person through respiratory droplets when someone sneezes or coughs.

When it comes to your mail and packages, Dr. Nanda says you shouldn't have a problem.

“Usually when mail and packages are in transit, they’re in transit long enough that if there was any contamination or virus on that packaging that enough time would’ve elapsed and it would be safe,” said Nanda.

Dr. Nanda has heard of people creating a staging area in their garage to leave packages for an additional 24 hours after delivery. He says being extra cautious won't hurt you.

Dr. Marissa Levine, a professor of public health and family medicine at USF, wants people to get into a routine of washing your hands.

"Just wash your hands, soap and water, 20 seconds. That’s the best thing that you can do," said Levine. "If the box or the surface is something you might use or touch frequently, then it wouldn’t be wrong to disinfect those surfaces.”

If you get an envelope, package, or groceries, health experts suggest washing your hands, handle the items, and then sanitize again when you're done.

Agencies like USPS, UPS, and FEDEX have taken extra precautions like using sanitizers, following social distancing guidelines, and no longer requiring signatures for some deliveries.