Scientists are still learning about COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, but according to the CDC, this highly contagious virus appears to be most commonly spread during close (within 6 feet) person-to-person contact through respiratory droplets.
“The means of transmission can be through respiratory droplets produced when a person coughs or sneezes, or by direct physical contact with an infected person, such as shaking hands,” says Dr. David Goldberg, an internist and infectious disease specialist at NewYork-Presbyterian Medical Group Westchester and an assistant professor of medicine at Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons.
The CDC also notes that COVID-19 can spread by airborne transmission, although this is less common than close contact with a person. “Some infections can be spread by exposure to virus in small droplets and particles that can linger in the air for minutes to hours,” the CDC states. “These viruses may be able to infect people who are further than 6 feet away from the person who is infected or after that person has left the space. These transmissions occurred within enclosed spaces that had inadequate ventilation.”
Finally, it’s possible for coronavirus to spread through contaminated surfaces, but this is also less likely. According to the CDC, “Based on data from lab studies on COVID-19 and what we know about similar respiratory diseases, it may be possible that a person can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes, but this isn’t thought to be the main way the virus spreads.”