What is "hygiene theatre" and how does it protect against COVID-19?


(WASHINGTON, D.C.) — You may have heard a new phrase as of late when it comes to combatting the novel coronavirus, which is “hygiene theater,” where businesses funnel money into deep cleans and sanitization efforts of their offices.

However, does it really protect customers or is it merely for peace of mind?

Some medical experts believe deep clean measures, such as enlisting sanitization robots, are not effective as believed, so the measures are more symbolic in nature rather than a strong new combative approach against COVID-19.

The trend has been great for cleaning companies, like Clorox, whose stocks have boomed roughly 35 percent this year and reached an all-time high last month.

However, when it comes to protecting the public against further spread of COVID-19, health experts measure “hygiene theater” to that of “security theater” Americans saw post-9/11.

Dr. Emanuel Goldman, a microbiology professor at Rutgers University, says that reports regarding the virus’s ability to live on a surface are “exaggerated.”

“It changes the focus from what will really protect you, and that is protecting what you breathe,” said Goldman, and cautioned that the excessive cleaning “is wasting limited resources.”

Meaning, deep cleaning measures, according to Goldman, are unnecessary and unsustainable — both financially and in safety. “Soap and water kills COVID,” he points out. “Ordinary alcohol kills COVID.”

While it is possible that a person may contract COVID-19 by touching a contaminated surface, medical experts say the main way a person becomes infected is by interacting with someone who either knowingly has the virus or is an asymptomatic carrier who is not wearing a mask — via airborne transmission.

Because of that, medical experts and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention highly recommend frequent hand washing, wearing a mask and practicing social distancing.

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