Wondering how long the SARS-CoV-2 virus persists in the environment? The media’s been pretty vague, but this recent article from the New England Journal of Medicine is much more helpful.
It shows that the virus is detectable up to 48 hours after exposure on many surfaces, particularly plastic and steel. It’s less stable on cardboard, and substantially less stable on copper (which is known for its microbe killing effects)
It’s worth noting that it’s not clear how much virus needs to be on a surface for it to be dangerous, though, so it’s better to be same than sorry. If you’re touching anything that might have been exposed in the last 2-3 days, wash your hands!
In terms of data, they calculate half-lives for survival in aerosol and on copper, cardboard, steel, and plastic of about 1, 1, 3.5, 6, and 7 hours, respectively, and found that the virus became virtually undetectable after 6, 8, 24, 48, and 48 hours, respectively.
The article (actually a letter) is short, free, and has an accessible diagram. Definitely worth a look. Note that the blue data set is for SARS-CoV-1 (aka the original SARS virus from 20 years ago), and is just there for comparison. You want the red data for the virus that leads to Covid-19.
(As an aside, it’s fascinating how differently the two viruses behave; SARS-CoV-1 does better on copper and plastic and much worse on cardboard and steel, though without more statistical analysis its unclear if those effects are significant).