Last night my husband and I were talking about what COVID-19 life looked like this week and what we think next week may bring. The discussion turned to economic recovery and why, if we adhere to social distancing, can we not go back to some semblance of normalcy. It was a fair question that generated a bit of a heated discussion and then it dawned on me. How I look at things and how he (and most likely many of the public) are categorically different. He sees his social distancing, his 6-foot spacing, as a protective bubble. I, and likely most people with a stronger understanding of infection control, see a something very different. We see the bubble and we see the pathogens (or potential pathogens) on the surfaces left behind after someone and their 6-foot bubble have passed by.
Think of it like a Venn-diagram where you have circles intersecting and points where they overlap. Now put a circle around the entire Venn-diagram, because that is really what happens. Everywhere you go, your germs go.
Social distancing helps minimize direct contact with respiratory droplets. It does not prevent you from touching everything everyone else has touched, coughed or sneezed on. That was the ah-ha moment. Unlike healthcare workers and companies or people who service the healthcare industry, most do not think of the germs left behind the person who previously occupied the space. You’re touching everything the person before you touched.
This is why we are hearing so much about the importance of hand hygiene. Many people are wearing gloves, thinking they are providing a protective barrier. Those gloves are touching everything the person before you touched. Are you taking them off before you grab your wallet, credit card or phone to pay for the goods you are buying? Are you getting into your car and driving home with them on? Are you opening the door and keeping them on while you put away groceries and touch however many surfaces? If you are, then you have potentially transferred germs to every surface you touched. Don’t be fooled by wearing gloves. Practice hand hygiene. Sanitize your hands after you have placed your groceries on the conveyor belt and before you grab your wallet or phone to pay. Practice hand hygiene after you have put your groceries into the trunk and before you have gotten behind the wheel of your car.
But it’s not just about the hands. Within your home, your office or your car think about all the high touch surfaces. Use a disinfectant to wipe these down at least daily. The good thing about viruses like COVID-19 is that while they can survive for a period of time once we have sneezed, coughed or moistly talked them out, they cannot reproduce. If we increase our frequency of disinfection along with washing our hands when we should, we can put a stop to COVID-19.