The United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have just updated their guidance on the transmission of SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19), making it clear the primary way in which people are infected is through exposure to respiratory droplets in the air. The risk posed by surfaces is low.
This update—published as a science brief from the CDC—is significant for consumers and those who routinely handle cash, given scares early in the pandemic suggesting that it was no longer safe. It follows reassurance from medical experts and central banks all over the world that cash is safe to use, and poses no more risk—and potentially less—than other commonly-touched surfaces, including credit and debit cards.
Surface transmission is not the main route by which SARS-CoV-2 spreads, and the risk is considered to be low. The principal mode by which people are infected with SARS-CoV-2 is through exposure to respiratory droplets carrying infectious virus.
The CDC recommends practicing good hand hygiene after touching surfaces—such as handrails and door handles, plastic wrappings, cash or cards—and wearing masks, which reduce the number of droplets deposited on surfaces.
The new guidance states that in most situations, cleaning surfaces using soap or detergent—without disinfection—is sufficient when having touched any surface. This, together with consistent hand hygiene, is enough to manage the small risk posed by contact with surfaces.