By Erin Hassanzadeh

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — When the pandemic started, stores quickly ran out of disinfecting wipes and household cleaners.

But now experts say the risk for catching COVID-19 from surfaces is low.

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Let’s say your keys are contaminated with COVID. It’s possible to get the virus by touching them then your face, but officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say it’s rare.

WCCO spoke to Dr. Frank Rhame, an infectious disease specialist at Abbott Northwestern, which is part of Allina Health.

“It’s become gradually clearer and clearer that airborne droplets account for most of the transmissions,” Rhame said.

For perspective, the CDC says studies estimate each time you touch a contaminated surface, your chances of getting infected are less than one in 10,000. Which is why it now says cleaning high-touch surfaces once a day with regular soap or cleaner should be enough.

(credit: CBS)

“Now if you look at that guidance it doesn’t say surfaces make no difference,” Rhame said. “It says that they’re not as important, and that for most surfaces, standard soap and water once a day are good enough.”

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Remember when some of us were wiping down our groceries? Maybe you still are — but do you need to?

“I wouldn’t do it ordinarily,” Rhame said.

Whether it’s your groceries or something else in your home, the CDC says disinfecting likely isn’t necessary unless there’s a suspected or known exposure or case. It actually warns against using disinfectants made for hard surfaces, like bleach, on plastic or cardboard food packaging.

“That stuff hasn’t been touched in a while by someone who is likely to have COVID,” Rhame said.

But COVID precautions are helping to curb other things, like the flu. Doctors don’t know if it’s the distancing, hand washing, masking or disinfecting that’s helping the most — but our efforts are protecting against more than just COVID-19.

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The CDC says the most reliable way to prevent infection from surfaces is to regularly wash your hands or use hand sanitizer. And you may want to clean more or disinfect if someone in your home is high risk.

Erin Hassanzadeh