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VERIFY: ‘Isn’t this unsanitary?’ Mail won’t carry COVID-19, but postal workers should take care

"Isn't this unsanitary?" A local postal worker expressed concern when customers take off their masks to lick their envelopes and then hand them to her to mail.

GREENSBORO, N.C. — Sealed with a lick...and COVID-19? 

A WFMY News 2 viewer asked the VERIFY team to reopen a claim about mail amid COVID-19.


Theresa Wilson asked, "Why has no one mentioned the fact people still lick their envelopes and want to hand them to a postal clerk?" 

She explained she is a postal clerkand sometimes she sees customers lick their envelopes right in front of her, pulling off their masks to do it. They then immediately hand her the envelopes.

"Isn't this unsanitary?" she wondered.



The VERIFY team took a similar question back in Christmastime, when people were sending out Christmas and holiday cards. As cited then and now, a National Institutes of Health study looked at the virus on various surfaces. It found the virus can live on paper products, like cardboard, for up to 24 hours but has no infection capability on that surface.

The CDC further concluded touching surfaces is not the main means of transmission. That said, Dr. Ohl said he understands viewer Theresa's concern about handling a freshly-licked envelope.

RELATED: VERIFY: Licking shut your Christmas cards won’t spread COVID-19

"Licking an envelope is directly putting saliva on the envelope. The virus isn't going to last very long in that environment. After a few minutes to an hour or two, its transmissibility is basically nil. However, if you're going to lick an envelope and directly give it to somebody who's ungloved, and then for some reason (that person) wipes their face, I guess there's a potential for transmission and infection," he explained.

However, he said it's probably not a major concern or health threat. For postal workers like Theresa, wearing gloves and washing hands can reduce the potential for transmission.

RELATED: Cone Health doctor breaks down what new CDC guidelines mean for masks in outdoor spaces

To be a courteous patron, seal the envelope at home -- with a sponge or sticker, instead of saliva.


Unsanitary? Yes. Reason to worry? No. Mail is not a primary spreader of COVID-19, though a freshly-licked envelope can pose a risk to the person handling it if precautions aren't taken.

Do you have a VERIFY inquiry? Submit a post, screen shot or selfie video of the claim in question to Meghann Mollerus via:

Facebook: Meghann Mollerus News

E-mail: Mmollerus@wfmy.com

Twitter: @MeghannMollerus

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