Background: We determined the burden of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) in air and on surfaces in rooms of patients hospitalized with coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) and investigated patient characteristics associated with SARS-CoV-2 environmental contamination.
Methods: Nasopharyngeal swabs, surface, and air samples were collected from the rooms of 78 inpatients with COVID-19 at 6 acute care hospitals in Toronto from March to May 2020. Samples were tested for SARS-CoV-2 ribonucleic acid (RNA), cultured to determine potential infectivity, and whole viral genomes were sequenced. Association between patient factors and detection of SARS-CoV-2 RNA in surface samples were investigated.
Results: Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 RNA was detected from surfaces (125 of 474 samples; 42 of 78 patients) and air (3 of 146 samples; 3 of 45 patients); 17% (6 of 36) of surface samples from 3 patients yielded viable virus. Viral sequences from nasopharyngeal and surface samples clustered by patient. Multivariable analysis indicated hypoxia at admission, polymerase chain reaction-positive nasopharyngeal swab (cycle threshold of ≤30) on or after surface sampling date, higher Charlson comorbidity score, and shorter time from onset of illness to sampling date were significantly associated with detection of SARS-CoV-2 RNA in surface samples.
Conclusions: The infrequent recovery of infectious SARS-CoV-2 virus from the environment suggests that the risk to healthcare workers from air and near-patient surfaces in acute care hospital wards is likely limited.
Keywords: COVID-19; SARS-CoV-2; aerosol; contamination; surface.
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