NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Since the coronavirus pandemic began, people have been worried about keeping their homes virus-free. How often should we be disinfecting our countertops? Better yet, what about the mail?

CBS2’s Dr. Max Gomez sheds some light on the issue in his latest Max Minute.

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When the COVID-19 coronavirus was new and mostly unknown just five months ago it made sense to be cautious. We knew we had to guard against person-to-person transmission, like coughing, sneezing.

Then came a study in the New England Journal of Medicine suggesting that SARS-COVID-2 could survive on surfaces for up to 72 hours.

So do we have to worry about surface-to-person infection? Maybe not.

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Following the report, health officials recommended surface disinfection, with the thinking being the virus spread readily via contaminated surfaces. So people became scared of surfaces. We’ve seen dozens of videos of people wiping down counters and packages, disinfecting groceries and even doorknobs and mail.

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But as we’ve learned more about the coronavirus, recommendations have shifted. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now says transmission through surfaces is less of a threat.

See, the question wasn’t so much whether the virus could survive on surfaces, but how the virus could get from that surface into a person’s mouth or nose.

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You would have to touch that contaminated surface right where the virus was and then quickly touch your mouth, nose or eyes. That would result in a low probability and even then, if the person simply washed their hands after touching a contaminated surface, transmission would be prevented.

So, can you catch COVID-19 from a contaminated surface? Theoretically, yes, but it’s highly unlikely. However, that does not mean you can let your guard down. The CDC continues to urge people to socially distance, wear masks in public, and wash hands often.

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