Many people have stopped using cold, hard — and dirty — cash in favor of debit, credit, or contactless forms of payment. Transferred from one person to the next, money is susceptible to picking up a whole host of germs. And naturally, when the coronavirus hit, this left people questioning if cash was safe, while many businesses started encouraging cashless forms of payment.
But do we really need to be concerned about getting coronavirus from cash?
'THE LIKELIHOOD OF GETTING COVID-19 FROM TOUCHING MONEY IS EXTREMELY LOW.'
With months of research behind us, our knowledge of COVID-19 has changed, and so too has the way experts think about surfaces, like that of paper bills and copper coins.
"When we look at transmission patterns, they are happening from person to person," says Neal Goldstein, assistant research professor of epidemiology and biostatistics at Drexel University. "Surface transmission is really a negligible component of transmission of coronavirus, and the likelihood of getting COVID-19 from touching money is extremely low."
There's evidence that the virus can live on surfaces for days. But as the Centers for Disease and Control Prevention reports, the coronavirus most commonly spreads from person to person between people who are in close contact (within about six feet), through respiratory droplets produced when a person who's infected coughs, sneezes, or talks. Although less common, COVID-19 can also spread through airborne transmission — exposure to the virus through small droplets and particles that can linger in the air for minutes to hours. Even more rare, says the CDC, is surface transmission.
REGARDLESS, WASHING YOUR HANDS IS STILL IMPORTANT.
"If someone who was sick coughed directly on a surface, and you contacted that surface with your hands and put your hands in your face, that would probably be an effective way to transmit the virus," says Goldstein. "It's such an extreme case and highly unlikely to happen in everyday occurrence, but it still suggests that hand hygiene is important."
You don't need to routinely wipe down your credit card or run loose change under the faucet. But you should continue regularly washing your hands. It'll negate any risk, albeit low, that does exist from picking up the coronavirus from bills, coins, debit cards, and other surfaces, and it helps prevent the spread of other viruses like the flu, too.