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Longitudinal Monitoring of SARS-CoV-2 RNA on High-Touch Surfaces in a Community Setting.

  • Author(s): Harvey, Abigail P
  • Fuhrmeister, Erica R
  • Cantrell, Molly E
  • Pitol, Ana K
  • Swarthout, Jenna M
  • Powers, Julie E
  • Nadimpalli, Maya L
  • Julian, Timothy R
  • Pickering, Amy J
  • et al.

Environmental surveillance of surface contamination is an unexplored tool for understanding transmission of SARS-CoV-2 in community settings. We conducted longitudinal swab sampling of high-touch non-porous surfaces in a Massachusetts town during a COVID-19 outbreak from April to June 2020. Twenty-nine of 348 (8.3%) surface samples were positive for SARS-CoV-2 RNA, including crosswalk buttons, trash can handles, and door handles of essential business entrances (grocery store, liquor store, bank, and gas station). The estimated risk of infection from touching a contaminated surface was low (less than 5 in 10,000) by quantitative microbial risk assessment, suggesting fomites play a minimal role in SARS-CoV-2 community transmission. The weekly percentage of positive samples (out of n = 33 unique surfaces per week) best predicted variation in city-level COVID-19 cases with a 7-day lead time. Environmental surveillance of SARS-CoV-2 RNA on high-touch surfaces may be a useful tool to provide early warning of COVID-19 case trends.

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