"A virus is a peculiar object that is inert and arguably not truly alive outside a host. Only when it invades a cell and hijacks its machinery can the virus begin to replicate."

"Outside, on an inanimate surface, the virus will gradually lose the ability to be an infectious agent. It may dry out, for example. It can degrade when exposed to ultraviolet radiation from the sun. A person sneezing on a surface may deposit many thousands of virus particles, and some may remain viable for days. Still, the likelihood of a person who comes into contact with the remnants of that sneeze goes down over time, because most infections are the result of a large viral load.... [T]ypically it takes 'an army of viruses going in' to break through the natural defenses of a human being, which include mucus that lines airways...."

From "Coronavirus can stay infectious for days on surfaces. But it’s still okay to check your mail" (WaPo).

How are you dealing with "fomites" (surfaces that may have the virus)? It's hard to think about everything, but we've been careful bringing mail and packages into the house. We leave the boxes and bags outside and let various objects (including the mail) sit around on a table for a day or so before we touch them again (and we wash our hands after touching them to bring them to the table). Out in the world, I don't touch anything people may have touched, or I regard my own hands/gloves as tainted until I can wash them. I use a pencil to punch the buttons on the parking meter.

But it's good to have more information about how long the virus survives on objects and how likely you are to get infected through fomites. I don't have anything like a scientific grasp on how the virus ceases "to be an infectious agent"? When and how does it "degrade"? It doesn't die, because it isn't alive. Or must I say "arguably not truly alive"? I guess scientists argue about what it means to be "truly alive." Why can't they agree?

The question of what it means to be "truly alive" sounds like something nonscientists wonder about as they engage in a semi-deep assessment of their own life... as depicted in the Broadway musical "Company":

But alone/Is alone/Not alive/Somebody crowd me with love/Somebody force me to care...

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