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Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)

COVID-19 is an emerging, rapidly evolving situation. Get the latest public health information from CDC: https://www.coronavirus.gov . Get the latest research from NIH: https://www.nih.gov/coronavirus.

Recommendations for Safe Handling

The Barbara Goldsmith Preservation & Conservation Department recommends the following procedures for safe handling of library materials during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.  The goal of these recommendations is to protect the health of all members of the NYU community.  This information is subject to change based on ongoing research, and this page will be updated as new information becomes available. 

Hand washing:

Library users and staff should wash their hands with soap and water frequently. If soap and water are not readily available use a hand sanitizer.

Disinfecting:

Use NYU provided disinfectant or sanitizing wipes containing 70% ethyl or isopropyl alcohol on the following surfaces at least once per day. Staff/users should wash hands with soap and water after disinfecting shared equipment.

High touch surfaces:

Clean and disinfect high touch surfaces such as doorknobs each day. 

Shared computers/devices:

Clean and disinfect shared equipment daily using sanitizing wipes containing 70% ethyl or isopropyl alcohol. Do not use spray disinfectant on electronics.

COVID-19 Basics

​SARS-CoV-2 is the virus that causes the illness COVID-19. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the primary way the virus spreads is through person-to-person contact - through nasal discharge or saliva droplets when an infected person sneezes or coughs. The best way to prevent viral transmission is by practicing good hand-washing hygiene, wearing a face mask that covers both the nose, mouth, and chin, and practicing physical distancing of at least three feet (one meter) from others.   

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Information

According to the CDC’s Guidelines for Cleaning and Disinfecting Your Facility the risk of becoming infected with the virus that causes COVID-19 from touching a surface is low. Cleaning and disinfecting high touch surfaces will decrease risk of infection from surfaces.  Cleaning once per day may be sufficient when there are no known or suspected cases of COVID-19. 

Cleaning with a detergent of disinfecting with a product on the EPA List N: Disinfectants for Use Against SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) is recommended. 

Note on Alternative Disinfection Methods from the CDC

The effectiveness of ultrasonic waves, high intensity UV radiation, and LED blue light against the virus that causes COVID-19 has not been fully established. 

See: Illuminating Engineering Society.  Guidance on the Use of Ultraviolet Germicidal Irradiation (UVGI) in Museum Applications.  Research Paper, Illuminating Engineering Society, 2021.  This research advises against using any kind of UV to disinfect library materials, as the ultraviolet spectrum is extremely damaging to many kinds of collections objects. They allow that UV radiation to disinfect might be useful, but only as a supplement to standard procedures of avoiding the spread of SARS-CoV-2, which are cleaning surfaces, wearing masks, and washing hands.

CDC does not recommend the use of sanitizing tunnels. 

Fogging, fumigation, and wide-area or electrostatic spraying has several safety risks to consider and is therefore not recommended as the primarily cleaning and disinfection method.

Recent Publications on Surface (Fomite) Transmission

CDC Science Brief: SARS-CoV-2 and Surface (Fomite) Transmission for Indoor Community Environments

  • A. M. Wilson, M. H. Weir, S. F. Bloomfield, E. A. Scott and K. A. Reynold, “Modeling COVID-19 infection risks for a single hand-to-fomite scenario and potential risk reductions offered by surface disinfection,” American Journal of Infection Control, vol. Article In Press, pp. 1-3, 2020.

    • Summary: The authors used quantitative microbial risk assessment to relate the effectiveness of surface disinfection to COVID-19 infection risk. High touch surfaces like door handles and faucets and most likely to facilitate coronavirus transmission and these should be targeted for disinfection.  Simulations show that in conditions with low viral bioburdens, median infection rates were below 1 in 1 million with or without disinfection. For higher viral bio burden scenarios, disinfection with CDC recommended disinfectants like 1000 ppm bleach solution or 70% ethanol were effective in reducing infection rates to below 1 in 1 million.
  • A. P. Harvey, E. R. Fuhrmeister, M. E. Cantrell, A. K. Pitol, S. J. M, J. E. Powers, M. L. Nadimpalli, T. R. Julian and A. J. Pickering, “Longitudinal monitoring of SARS-CoV-2 RNA on high-touch surfaces in a community setting,” Environmental Science & Technology Letters, pp. 168-175, 2020.

    • Summary: The study focused on non-porous, high touch surfaces like door handles. Using quantitative microbial risk assessment, the authors estimated the risk of infection from touching a contaminated surface to be low (less than 5 in 10,000).  This finding suggests that communities should focus on wearing masks and social distancing as the major means of reducing spread. 
  • A. K. Pitol and T. R. Julian, “Community transmission of SARS-CoV-2 by fomites: Risks and risk reduction strategies,” Environmental Science and Technology Letters, 2020.

    • Summary: The authors developed a model to estimate the risk of fomite transmission. The concentrations of SARS-CoV-2 RNA is drawn from reported investigations of surface contamination in public spaces. The authors used two contact frequencies, high (every 1–20 min) and low (every 60–240 min). The infection scenario ranged from a 5% prevalence rate for the highest and a 0.2% prevalence rate for the lowest scenario. Based on this finding the authors determined that “Risks of SARS-CoV-2 infection from contact with a fomite in community settings are estimated to be low...and influenced by both the infection prevalence rate in the community and the frequency with which the fomite is contacted.” Hand hygiene is still the most effective method of reducing the risk of infection. 
  • E. A. Meyerowitz, A. Richterman, R. T. Gandhi and P. E. Sax, “Transmission of SARS-CoV-2: a review of viral, host, and environmental factors,” Annals of internal medicine, 2020.

    • Summary: The authors point out that there are no proven cases of fomite transmission. The few cases of presumed transmission occurred in situations where respiratory transmission has not been completely excluded. The authors conclude that “on the basis of currently available data, we suspect that the levels of viral RNA or live virus transiently remaining on surfaces are unlikely to cause infection, especially outside of settings with known active cases”.
  • G. Kampf, Y. Brüggemann, H. Kaba, J. Steinmann, S. Pfaender, S. Scheithauer and E. Steinmann, “Potential sources, modes of transmission and effectiveness of prevention measures against SARS-CoV-2,” Journal of Hospital Infection, 2020.

    • Summary:  In this literature review, the authors “aim to comprehensively summarize the current evidence on possible sources for SARS-CoV-2.” Regarding the potential for fomite transmission, the authors cite several studies that have shown that SARS-CoV-2 RNA detected on surfaces could not be cultured, meaning that the samples did not contain infectious virus. To quote, “in the close surrounding of COVID-19 patients in hospitals SARS-CoV-2 RNA is detected more frequently compared with surfaces outside the patient rooms but samples were so far consistently negative for infectious virus.”

REALM Project

The primary source of information regarding SARS-CoV-2 on library materials is the REALM Project: Reopening Archives, Libraries, and Museums.  The project is a collaboration among OCLC, the Institute of Museum and Library Services, and Batelle. 

REALM Literature Review & Testing

Spurred by a preliminary literature review in Summer 2020 that identifies the scarcity of peer reviewed publications on the topic SARS-CoV-2 on inanimate surfaces, the project has released their testing plan, whose goal is to test the viability of SARS-CoV-2 on a variety of surfaces.

second literature review assessed scientific findings from May 2020 to August 2020, summarizing what is currently known about how the SARS-CoV-2 virus spreads, its lifespan on various surfaces, and how to effectively prevent viral transmission. 

third literature review summarized scientific findings from August to November 2020 and focused on environmental factors that can impact the spread of the virus. 

REALM Testing Results

Phase 1 results released June 22, 2020 (PDF) 

Show that the SARS-CoV-2 virus was not detectable on these common circulating library materials after three days (72 hours) in environmental conditions found in climate controlled buildings (22⩲2° Celsius/71.6⩲2° Fahrenheit and 40⩲10% Relative Humidity).

 

Alt-Text: Screenshot from REALM study website showing line graph of natural attenuation of SARS-CoV-2 at 1, 3, and 4 days. The graph has lines for Hardback Book Cover, Plastic Protective Cover, Paperback Book Cover, DVD Case, and Plain Paper Pages, each with a different color. All lines decrease quickly, with no detectable virus on all tested materials after day 3.

Phase 2 results were released July 20, 2020. 

In this phase, the following materials were tested: a) Braille paper pages, b) glossy book pages, c) magazine pages, d) children’s board books, and e) archival folders.  The sample materials were placed in closed books, which were then stacked to reproduce library storage conditions.  Stacks were stored at standard environmental conditions (22⩲2° Celsius/71.6⩲2° Fahrenheit and 40⩲10% Relative Humidity).  Results indicated that archival folder stacks showed no detectable SARS-CoV-2 virus after two days.  Low levels of the virus were present after three days for magazine paper, glossy paper, and Braille pages.  By Day 4, only the magazine paper showed observable virus.  Day 4 was the final timepoint tested.

Alt text:  Screenshot from REALM study website showing line graph of natural attenuation of SARS-CoV-2 at 1, 2, 3, and 4 days. The graph has lines for Children’s board book, archival folder, Braille page, glossy page, and magazine page, each with a different color. All lines decrease, with no detectable virus on all materials except magazine paper from day 4 onward.

Phase 3 results were released on August 18, 2020.  

Materials tested in this phase were plastic-based, including a) Talking Book USB cassette/acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS), b) DVD/polycarbonate, c) storage bag/low-density polyethylene (LDPE), d) storage container/high-density polyethylene (HDPE), and e) plexiglass/acrylic.  Sample materials were tested in an unstacked configuration in standard environmental conditions (22⩲2° Celsius/71.6⩲2° Fahrenheit and 40⩲10% Relative Humidity).  After five days, the SARS-CoV-2 virus was not detectable on the low-density polyethylene (LDPE) or the polycarbonate.  However, the virus was still detected on the Talking Book USB cassette/ABS plastic, the plexiglass/acrylic, and the storage container/high-density polyethylene.  Day 5 was the final timepoint tested.  

Alt text:  Screenshot from REALM study website showing line graph of natural attenuation of SARS-CoV-2 at 0, 2, 3, 4, and 5 days. The graph has lines for Talking Book USB cassette, DVD, Storage Bag, Storage Container, and Plexiglass, each with a different color. All lines decrease, but the virus remains detectable on the Talking Book USB cassette, Storage Container, and Plexiglass after 5 days.

Phase 4 results were released on September 3, 2020.  

In this phase, some of the materials from testing phase 1 were re-tested, but in a stacked configuration that reproduces common library book return and storage conditions.  Expanded polyethylene foam, often used in display or storage, was also tested.  The following materials were tested: a) hardback buckram book cover, b) coated paper softcover book cover, c) polyester protective cover, d) polypropylene DVD case, and e) polyethylene foam.  Stacks were stored at standard environmental conditions (22⩲2° Celsius/71.6⩲2° Fahrenheit and 40⩲10% Relative Humidity).  Results indicated that the virus was detectable on all five materials after six days of quarantine in a stacked configuration.  Compared to the results of test 1, which tested the hardcover book, softcover book, plastic book cover, and DVD case in an unstacked configuration and found that the virus dies within three days, test 4 shows that stacking materials prolongs the viability of the SARS-Cov-2 virus.  Day 6 was the final timepoint tested.

Alt text:  Screenshot from REALM study website showing line graph of natural attenuation of SARS-CoV-2 at 0, 2, 3, 4, and 6 days. The graph has lines for Hardcover Book Cover, Softcover Book Cover, Plastic Protective Cover, DVD Case, and Foam, each with a different color. All lines decrease, but the virus remains detectable on the Hardcover Book Cover at 6 days, the final timepoint tested.

Phase 5 results were released on October 14, 2020 (PDF)

Materials tested were textiles commonly found in libraries and museums, including a) 19th century bookbinding leather, b) synthetic polyvinyl chloride leather, c) polyolefin fabric, d) cotton fabric, and e) nylon webbing.  The samples were stored in standard environmental conditions (22⩲2° Celsius/71.6⩲2° Fahrenheit and 40⩲10% Relative Humidity).  Results indicated that both the leather book cover and synthetic leather showed detectable SARS-CoV-2 until Day 8.  No virus was present after one hour for the polyolefin and nylon textiles.   Due to experimental complications, it was necessary to exclude the cotton fabric from analysis.  Day 8 was the final timepoint tested.

Alt text:  Screenshot from REALM study website showing line graph of natural attenuation of SARS-CoV-2 at 0, 2, 4, 6, and 8 days. The graph has lines for Leather Book Cover, Synthetic Leather, Polyolefin Fabric, and Nylon Webbing, each with a different color. The cotton textile was not analyzed due to experimental complications. All lines decrease, but the virus remains detectable on the Leather Book Cover and Synthetic Leather at 8 days, the final timepoint tested.

Phase 6 results were released on November 19, 2020

In this phase, the following materials were tested: a) glass, b) marble, c) laminate with particle board backing, d) brass, and e) powder-coated steel.  The materials were stored in standard environmental conditions (22⩲2° Celsius/71.6⩲2° Fahrenheit and 40⩲10% Relative Humidity).  After two days, no virus was detectable on the brass and marble.  The SARS-Cov-2 virus was detectable on the glass, laminate, and powder-coated steel until the Day 6.  Day 8 was the final timepoint tested.  

Alt text: Screenshot from REALM study website showing line graph of natural attenuation of SARS-CoV-2 at 0, 2, 4, 6, and 8 days.  The graph has lines for Glass, Marble, Laminate, Powder-Coated Steel, and Brass, each with a different color.  All lines decrease, and the virus was not detectable on the Brass and Marble after two days.  The virus remained detectable on the Glass, Laminate, and Powder-Coated Steel until the sixth day.  Day 8 was the final timepoint tested.  

Phases 7 and 8 results were released February 11, 2021 (PDF)

In this phase, the following materials were tested: a) buckram cloth, b) coated paper, c) polyester film, and d) polyester foam.  For test 7, the materials were kept in cooler temperatures (1-4° Celsius/34-36° Fahrenheit) and for test 8, warmer temperatures (28-29° Celsius/83-84° Fahrenheit) were used.  The Relative Humidity for tests 7 and 8 was kept at 40⩲10%, as it had been in tests 1-6. The tests show that the  SARS-Cov-2 virus was viable for longer periods on all materials when stored in the colder conditions, with virus detectable on the foam, coated paper, and polyester cover after ten days.  The virus was detectable on the buckram book cover after 8 days.  For all of the materials stored in the warm conditions, the virus was not detected after the third day.  Day 10 was the final timepoint tested.

Alt text: Screenshot from REALM study website showing line graph of natural attenuation of SARS-CoV-2 at 0, 2, 3, 4, 6, 8, 9, and 10 days when stored at warm and cold temperatures.  The graph has lines for Hardcover Cold in blue and Hardcover Warm in red.  The red line decreases rapidly, and the virus was not detectable on the hardcover buckram after 3 days.  The virus remained detectable on the hardcover buckram stored in cold temperatures until the 9th day.  Day 10 was the final timepoint tested.  

Alt text: Screenshot from REALM study website showing line graph of natural attenuation of SARS-CoV-2 at 0, 2, 3, 4, 6, 8, 9, and 10 days when stored at warm and cold temperatures.  The graph has lines for Softcover Cold in blue and Softcover Warm in red.  The red line decreases rapidly, and the virus was not detectable on the softcover coated paper after 3 days.  The virus remained detectable on the softcover coated paper stored in cold temperatures until the 10th day.  Day 10 was the final timepoint tested.  

Alt text: Screenshot from REALM study website showing line graph of natural attenuation of SARS-CoV-2 at 0, 2, 3, 4, 6, 8, 9, and 10 days when stored at warm and cold temperatures.  The graph has lines for Plastic Cover Cold in blue and Plastic Cover Warm in red.  The red line decreases rapidly, and the virus was not detectable on the plastic cover polyester after 3 days.  The virus remained detectable on the softcover coated paper stored in cold temperatures until the 10th day.  Day 10 was the final timepoint tested.  

 

Alt text: Screenshot from REALM study website showing line graph of natural attenuation of SARS-CoV-2 at 0, 2, 3, 4, 6, 8, 9, and 10 days when stored at warm and cold temperatures.  The graph has lines for Foam Cold in blue and Foam Warm in red.  The red line decreases rapidly, and the virus was not detectable on the polyethylene foam after 3 days.  The virus remained detectable on the polyethylene foam stored in cold temperatures until the 10th day.  Day 10 was the final timepoint tested.