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CDC says coronavirus 'does not spread easily' by touching surfaces or objects. But it still 'may be possible.' USA TODAY

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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has always warned that "it may be possible" to become infected with coronavirus by touching contaminated surfaces or objects.

It just "does not spread easily" in that manner, the agency says, nor by animal-to-human contact or vice versa.

"COVID-19 is a new disease and we are still learning about how it spreads," the CDC's recently updated guidelines say. "It may be possible for COVID-19 to spread in other ways, but these are not thought to be the main ways the virus spreads."

Dr. John Whyte, chief medical officer for the health care website WebMD, told Fox News that the CDC's slight update brings clarity and helps to reduce fears.

“Many people were concerned that by simply touching an object they may get coronavirus, and that’s simply not the case. Even when a virus may stay on a surface, it doesn’t mean that it’s actually infectious,” Whyte said. “I think this new guideline helps people understand more about what does and doesn’t increase risk. It doesn’t mean we stop washing hands and disinfecting surfaces. But it does allow us to be practical and realistic as we try to return to a sense of normalcy."

For hours, even days: How long does the coronavirus live on surfaces?

The CDC still warns that the main way the virus is spread is through person-to-person contact, even among those who are not showing any symptoms.

The main way to prevent infection, the CDC says, is by practicing social distancing and staying at least 6 feet away from others, washing your hands with soap and water, and cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched areas.

A study in the New England Journal of Medicine shows that coronavirus can live on some surfaces for up to three days and up to three hours in the air.

It can live up to four hours on copper, up to 24 hours on cardboard and up to 2-3 days on plastic and stainless steel, according to the study. 

The CDC said that catching the coronavirus from boxes delivered by Amazon or on your takeout food bag is highly unlikely "because of poor survivability of these coronaviruses on surfaces."

Contributing: N'dea Yancey-Bragg and David Oliver

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