Doctor answers coronavirus questions: How long will it spread? New testing availability?


MURRELLS INLET, SC (WBTW) – The coronavirus is relatively new and doctors are learning more every day. Tideland’s Health VP of Medical Affairs, Dr. Gerald Harmon, answers some of our questions on the coronavirus.

Dr. Harmon estimates how long the virus will spread. He tells us why the state and country may start to see quicker results from patients and how long the virus stays on surfaces.

How long is the virus expected to spread?

Dr. Harmon predicts how long we’ll be impacted. China might give us an idea of how long it will spread in this country. 
“Well, it’s interesting the Chinese first reported this three months ago in December of 2019. Then they had kind of a curve spike and then it started to go back down. Ninety days later they are reporting fewer cases, a decline in the spread. So I am anticipating if we use that as our baseline perhaps ninety days,” Dr. Harmon said.
Doctor Harmon says all of the closures could reduce how long the virus spreads. The virus takes 14 days to run its course so that’s why we’re hearing about two-week quarantines for people who might have been exposed. 

Why are we seeing more positive test results?

One of the reasons we are seeing more positives in our state and our country is now we have more availability for testing. As doctors increase the opportunity to test high-risk or exposed patients, dr. Harmon says now they are seeing more positives.

“What we have found historically that the CDC and DHEC originally proposed tests would take a couple of days. It could be 2, 3, or 4 days perhaps,” Dr. Harmon said. “Now, the more recently approved tests expedited by FDA approval and expedient FDA approval and modification of the testing release process may give us as short as an 8-12 hour turnaround, which is remarkably effective.”

Unless a patient is at a really high risk, doctors are not going to have the tests available. Dr. Harmon suggests low-risk patients not rush to the doctor or hospital. Low-risk patients would increase their chances of coming in contact with a patient who may have the coronavirus.

How long can coronavirus live on surfaces?

The type of surface defines how long the coronavirus can live on a surface, like a door handle, after someone infected touches it.

“On a porous surface, it doesn’t stay on it very long, like cardboard. Plastic or metal surfaces might linger for a couple of days. People should decontaminate often-touched surfaces with household sprays,” Dr. Harmon says.

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