Longitudinal monitoring of SARS-CoV-2 RNA on high-touch surfaces in a community setting

medRxiv. 2020 Nov 1;2020.10.27.20220905. doi: 10.1101/2020.10.27.20220905. Preprint


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, 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), 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 using a 7-day lead time. Environmental surveillance of SARS-CoV-2 RNA on high-touch surfaces could be a useful tool to provide early warning of COVID-19 case trends.

Publication types

  • Preprint