This post was updated on March 17 2020 to reflect the impact of the coronavirus extending well beyond China.
With so much still unknown about the new coronavirus, the question of whether it’s safe to order from and accept packages from affected regions is a perfectly valid one. Several reputable and trustworthy healthcare officials have issued statements that the risk of the virus travelling through the mail system is extremely low and there’s no evidence to suggest it’s possible at all.
The novel coronavirus, or COVID-19, is a respiratory disease similar to SARS, which had an outbreak in 2003. While instances of infection were previously concentrated around its origin point in Wuhan, China, there are confirmed cases worldwide, with several countries now on lockdown. As with all troubling news stories, it doesn’t take long for panic to set in and myths to emerge (you won’t catch it from sipping the popular cerveza).
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) say “In general, because of poor survivability of these coronaviruses on surfaces, there is likely very low risk of spread from products or packaging that are shipped over a period of days or weeks at ambient temperatures. Coronaviruses are generally thought to be spread most often by respiratory droplets. Currently there is no evidence to support transmission of COVID-19 associated with imported goods and there have not been any cases of COVID-19 in the United States associated with imported goods. Information will be provided on the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) website as it becomes available.”
Dr. Amesh A. Adalja from John Hopkins Center for Health Security has echoed this, saying that – even with overnight shipping – the temperature and environment of shipping conditions aren’t conducive to sustaining a virus. “Given that it takes a special combination of environmental conditions for a virus to remain viable (lack of UV exposure, specific temperatures, specific humidity, et cetera) that is not readily achieved in shipping.”
All this being said – be smart! Wash your hands with soap and water regularly, or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer, especially after handling mail that’s likely come in contact with dozens of people and possibly dubious surfaces. And don’t touch your face before washing your hands. If you’re still concerned, a quick wipe down of any surfaces with disinfectant will stop any clingers-on dead in their tracks. Cleanliness is next to godliness.
So to sum it up: if you’ve got your eye on a record but you’ve been hesitating on hitting ‘Place Order’, several global health agencies have declared it safe. Practice good hygiene and you should be just peachy.