DETROIT (WXYZ) — It's hard to believe, it’s now been over six months since COVID-19 cropped up in our community, and today many of us are trying to return to a new normal as we shop, pump gas, or go out to eat, to what extent do we need to worry about the coronavirus crawling on the surfaces we interact with every day?
"The freezer doors, the handles, the carts, the baskets," said Jill Tack owner of the Pet Beastro in Madison Heights.
"I sanitize a cart down," said Jenn, talking about when she takes her 4-year-old daughter grocery shopping.
The idea of the coronavirus crawling on you is enough to make you cringe!
"I’m always using hand sanitizer. it does worry me," said Scott, "cause we don’t know if it’s on the surfaces or not."
The anxiety shared by many. Wondering where the virus is thriving on surfaces around us.
We teamed up with the San Francisco based biotechnology firm, Phylagen, the makers of a new surface kit helping communities answer that very question.
They gave us 25 swabs and told us to target some high foot traffic locales around Metro Detroit.
There’s no denying that one of the most feared places for parents to let their kids play in the playground so that's exactly where we’re going to start.
I got to work testing different points of a playscape to the gas station, then on to the grocery store. I tested both freezer handles and the shopping carts.
The call buttons in a local hospital elevator, a public bathroom at a busy bus station, an inside ATM, and multiple surfaces within two area restaurants.
Our sister station on the west side of the state tested an additional 25 surfaces in and around Grand Rapids.
So, where did we find coronavirus crawling?
"Somebody who had Covid-19, whether they knew it or not, transferred it to the handle of the shopping cart," said Dr. Jessica Green from Phylagen.
Out of 25 samples in Metro Detroit, one positive hit on a cart sitting outside at a grocery store in Wayne County.
In the meantime, in Grand Rapids, two pops of the virus at a parking garage elevator and on a gas station door handle. Two out of three testing positive despite being outdoors, exposed to air dilution & sunlight.
Worth noting, given that scientists do believe COVID-19 is more prevalent indoors.
"That’s because we’re primarily transmitting the virus to one another when we’re breathing and talking and laughing indoors," said Dr. Jessica Green.
How long does the virus stick around?
Infectious Teena Chopra said two to three days on cardboards.
Infectious disease specialist Teena Chopra says depending on the surface, coronavirus can live for a few hours up to several days.
"Plastics, doorknobs, aluminum, iron handles, for as long as four days," said Dr. Chopra.
Meaning in some cases, coronavirus can last up to four times longer on surfaces than the common flu can. That said, with 47 out 50 samples testing negative we wanted to know, what does that signal?
"I think it is relatively encouraging," said Dr. Chopra.
Three out of 50, but we also know we found it, and those three samples were positive so if those people did not wash their hands and are touching eyes and nose and mouth, There is a risk of transmission.
Dr. Chopra says the takeaway from this is that it is critical to wear a mask and practice hand hygiene.
We even asked whether the results should make us want to wear gloves when out and about shopping.
The doctor was not in favor of that. She worries it could give us a false sense of security, making us contaminate more surfaces we touch.
So hand sanitizer is a much better option when you can’t wash.
Phylagen developed the idea to produce a kit that businesses, schools, and other entities to test the effectiveness of their cleaning to get an idea of where that virus is spreading and limit that spread immediately.
For more information on the kits: Phylagen