Is It Safe to Get My Mail During Coronavirus Pandemic?

Officials are urging people to do their part to stop the spread of the new coronavirus, but so far there are no indications that it's time to stop checking mailboxes or bringing packages inside.

With more than 97,000 cases, the United States is experiencing the pandemic's largest outbreak of any country in the world. To limit the possibility that infections will skyrocket out of control, nonessential businesses across the nation have closed, gatherings of all sizes are canceled, and people have been told to stay inside as much as possible.

The virus, SARS-CoV-2, is known to primarily spread through respiratory droplets, so reducing close contact between people is a way to reduce the chances of being exposed. It's also possible that people could touch an infected object, transfer the virus to their hand and then touch their face and become infected.

However, it's unclear how long the virus can live on surfaces. Studies show it could remain on a surface for a few hours or several days, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). This time frame could also vary based on the type of surface and the temperature or humidity of the environment that it's in.

This doesn't mean someone should be leery of bringing in the mail, though. When asked if it was safe to receive a package from an area where COVID-19 cases have been reported, the WHO answered yes. There's a low risk of catching the virus from a package that's been exposed to different conditions and temperatures, according to the WHO.

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Both the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization say it is safe to receive packages during the coronavirus pandemic. Scott Olson/Getty

Most packages are made of cardboard, and SARS-CoV-2 survives for less time on cardboard than other surfaces. Viable SARS-CoV-2 was still detectable on plastic and stainless steel after 72 and 48 hours, according to a study released by The New England Journal of Medicine. Researchers found the virus wasn't detectable on cardboard after 24 hours.

During the earliest weeks of the virus' outbreak, China, where it originated, was hit hardest. This raised concerns among some people that receiving packages from China could put them at risk of contracting the virus. Health officials quickly dismissed these fears, and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said there likely was a "very low risk" of the virus spreading through packages that are shipped over a period of days or weeks.

There hasn't been evidence to support the claim that COVID-19 could be transmitted through imported goods, and the CDC reports that none of the U.S. cases were associated with imported goods.