A photo of James Lloyd-Smith.

Study reveals how long COVID-19 remains infectious on cardboard, metal and plastic

The virus that causes COVID-19 remains for several hours to days on surfaces and in aerosols, a new study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found.

The study suggests that people may acquire the coronavirus through the air and after touching contaminated objects. Scientists discovered the virus is detectable for up to three hours in aerosols, up to four hours on copper, up to 24 hours on cardboard and up to two to three days on plastic and stainless steel.

A photo of James Lloyd-Smith in his office.

James Lloyd-Smith

“This virus is quite transmissible through relatively casual contact, making this pathogen very hard to contain,” said James Lloyd-Smith, a co-author of the study and a UCLA professor of ecology and evolutionary biology. “If you’re touching items that someone else has recently handled, be aware they could be contaminated and wash your hands.”

The study attempted to mimic the virus being deposited onto everyday surfaces in a household or hospital setting by an infected person through coughing or touching objects, for example. The scientists then investigated how long the virus remained infectious on these surfaces.

The study’s authors are from UCLA, the National Institutes of Health’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and Princeton University. They include Amandine Gamble, a UCLA postdoctoral researcher in Lloyd-Smith’s laboratory.

In February, Lloyd-Smith and colleagues reported in the journal eLife that screening travelers for COVID-19 is not very effective. People infected with the virus — officially named SARS-CoV-2 — may be spreading the virus without knowing they have it or before symptoms appear. Lloyd-Smith said the biology and epidemiology of the virus make infection extremely difficult to detect in its early stages because the majority of cases show no symptoms for five days or longer after exposure.

“Many people won’t have developed symptoms yet,” Lloyd-Smith said. “Based on our earlier analysis of flu pandemic data, many people may not choose to disclose if they do know.”

The new study supports guidance from public health professionals to slow the spread of COVID-19:

  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Cover coughs or sneezes with a tissue, and dispose of the tissue in the trash.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a household cleaning spray or wipe.

This article originally appeared in the UCLA Newsroom.

A photo of students during lecture.

UCLA offers undergraduates emergency financial support for remote learning technology

WESTWOOD, CA – DECEMBER 1, 2014. College of Letters and Science photography.

As universities across the nation adjust to remote instruction in an effort to help slow the spread of the novel coronavirus, UCLA is working to make the transition smooth and to ensure that amid the stress of an uncertain time, no undergraduate student is left behind because of financial need.

An innovative program showcasing the strength of the UCLA community, called the Bruin Tech Award, launched this week, initiated by Patricia Turner, senior dean of UCLA College. The program offers an emergency award of up to $1,000 to support students who may not have the technology at home needed to access online classes, such as up-to-date computers or wi-fi. More than 40 awards were approved on the first day the funds were offered.

“This is an award, not a loan, that we hope will help UCLA students who may not have the resources to purchase the technology at home on their own to continue to excel in their courses in a virtual environment,” said Turner, who, in addition to her role at the College, also serves as vice provost of undergraduate education.

Bruin Tech funds will be distributed through UCLA’s financial aid office. Turner has been working closely with Roxanne Neal, assistant vice provost, to roll out aid rapidly to any undergraduate student in need who already is approved for financial aid. The office also is taking a variety of factors into account before determining eligibility.

“Our hope was to match the technical needs that students have for their courses without them worrying about the financial implications,” Neal said. “We want to make sure that students have the same access they traditionally get from campus computer labs and services. Dean Turner was instrumental in making this happen.”

Eligible undergraduate students may purchase laptops, tablets or hotspots at the UCLA Store in the Ackerman Union, which is the fastest method, or purchase their own equipment and submit the receipt for reimbursement. Financial aid administrators are asking students to use only the funds they need so that other students also may benefit.

Turner is currently using “every penny” of her vice provost’s discretionary undergraduate education scholarship fund, given by donors to UCLA’s Centennial Campaign for “rainy day” needs, which totals about $90,000. She was concerned it may not be enough. But when she unveiled the idea at a leadership meeting this week, other leaders across campus were quick to jump in and offer support.

“I am so touched and heartened by how the UCLA community demonstrates how much it cares for our most vulnerable students during this crisis,” said Eileen Strempel, dean of the UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music. “The Herb Alpert School of Music also is pledging to support the Bruin Tech award for students across campus — transcending school affiliations.”

Others schools and divisions across campus, including the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA the Anderson School of Management — neither of which have undergraduate enrollments — also have been quick to pledge support.

Antonio Bernardo, dean of UCLA Anderson, has transferred $100,000 to the effort. The fund has now grown to about $280,000, and Turner said she hopes that once word is out, others both on and off campus will want to be part of this effort to support students.

“This is another example of the commitment of our leadership to ensuring that every student is successful at UCLA,” said Youlonda Copeland-Morgan, vice provost for enrollment management.

UCLA as an institution had a head start in its transition to nearly all remote classes, thanks to its online teaching and learning initiative launched in 2014 in cooperation with the University of California.

“We are fortunate, but no matter how much we prepare, there are always going to be additional needs that arise in the moment,” Turner said.  “I’m so proud to be here at UCLA, where colleagues across campus are looking out for all Bruins who need support — that’s truly what makes UCLA an unparalleled learning community.”

For more information or to submit a request for Bruin Tech Award support, visit https://ucla.in/2TR1G2a.

To support UCLA students in need, visit this UCLA Spark page.

This article originally appeared in the UCLA Newsroom.