I am continually unclear to what precisely defines a viable (or "live") virus, and am hoping for detailed clarification. That is, viruses can be actively infecting cells and replicating, or they can be dormant at times ready to go into action when opportunity arises, or they can exist yet have no infectious capability, ie inert.
Of course, viruses are not living organisms, but what exactly are their 'life' cycles? They infect cells, replicate, infect more cells, but they also simply shed out into the environment with the ability to invade other organisms, infect those cells, and replicate again in continuing cycles.
But what are the virus characteristics when dormant? That is, are they "viable" when dormant, simply lying parasitically in wait. Can their viability persist for long periods of time when not infecting host cells?
In part, I am trying to understand their characteristics on surfaces, ie fomites, over time. At those points, are they "dormant"? They have a "half-life", so what does that mean for instance wrt to their viability?