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Risk of catching COVID-19 from mail or packages 'minimal to none'

USPS boxes
Posted at 5:29 PM, Mar 24, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-24 21:15:41-04

After a postal worker in Batesville, Indiana, tested positive for COVID-19, people expressed concern about whether mail and packages could carry the COVID-19 virus. Fortunately, the risk of that happening is "minimal to none," according to Dr. Steven Blatt, medical director for infectious diseases at Tri-Health.

He said wearing gloves to open mail or packages isn't necessary.

"There's some experimental studies where they can find some genetic material from the virus on surfaces that may last a day or two, but that doesn't really indicate that those are infectious viruses," said Blatt. "Those are particles of viruses, so we have no idea ... we don't think it lasts in its infectious form very long at all."

He said washing hands after handling mail is best, but sanitizing the mail or a package itself is not necessary.

In the case of a mail carrier or delivery worker testing positive for COVID-19, Blatt said there has been no indication that the virus can survive long enough on mail to be transferred infectiously.

"As this spreads throughout the community, there are going to be lots of workers and lots of industries that will potentially come in contact with items, but those items do not harbor the virus for any length of time," said Blatt.

Information surrounding the postal worker in Batesville has been vague to protect his or her identity, and to preserve HIPAA laws. A request for comment to the USPS in the Batesville area was responded to with instructions to refer back to the press release stating that a worker was positive for COVID-19.

Dr. Blatt said, however, that people are much more likely to get the virus by being in contact with people rather than it spreading by mail.