So how big of a deal is handwashing, disinfecting etc.?

This was in large part the focus of pandemic prevention efforts early on. Of late, focus has shifted to masks (along with a continued focus on social distancing) as understanding evolved to a more aerosol-based transmission. My question is: at this point, how big of a deal are things like hand-washing altogether?

From ABC: Science shows coronavirus can survive on plastic, metal surfaces, but does it matter?

While experts say it’s impossible to completely rule out the possibility that someone might touch a surface covered in coronavirus and then inadvertently become infected, there have been no documented cases of this happening in real life.

At the start of the pandemic, we wiped down our groceries because we weren’t sure. Now, experts say it’s not a major concern – although they continue to encourage good hand hygiene.

“I think that overall, while it is possible and can’t be ruled out, it seems unlikely given the way that we think the virus is transmitted,” said Dr. Todd B. Ellerin, an infectious disease specialist at South Shore Health in Massachusetts.

ISTM that at this point, it’s likely that the impact of all this hand-washing and disinfecting is minimal in terms of covid prevention. I suspect that public health officials continue encourage these measures because of a combination of: 1) they’re not completely sure that it’s ineffective, 2) it probably does help a bit, 3) it’s a good idea anyway for all sorts of other reasons, and 4) inertia - they started off stressing it and don’t see a compelling reason to back off, especially in light of the other 3 factors noted above.

Reason #3. People are pigs.

IIRC, the ‘seasonal flu’ can be transmitted from surfaces. Given that, I’d probably stay on message with the personal hygiene stuff, too.

I have a suspicion that if fomite spread were a major vector (if a vector at all) that COVID-19 would be spreading much more easily and there would be a good number of news-making grocery-store outbreaks.

My understanding – I think I’m right, but open to contraverting evidence – is that to infect oneself with COVID-19 from a surface requires a highly contrived chain of events. An infected person would have to cough/sneeze a (virtually) visible amount of droplets onto a surface, then I’d have to touch that surface nearly immediately AND make a concerted effort to collect as many of the droplets as possible onto my hands. Then, I’d have to consciously rub those droplets right into my eyes or nose, and with vigor. And even then, by the odds in my head, I’m probably no worse than 50-50 in risk of becoming infected.

Anyway, frequent handwashing/sanitizing makes even that chain of events all but impossible.

One of the tough things with COVID-19 seems to be that the common ways we’ve been taught that respiratory illnesses spread are not the chief means that COVID employs. Given the right environmental conditions, COVID can come at us via inoccuous exhalation – no coughing or sneezing required.

Also, having another disease like the flu that can be contacted thru surfaces doesn’t make you immune to Covid19. It very likely makes it much worst. Washing hands and covering your sneezes is always good advice. We may in fact see a milder flu season this year due to all the disinfecting that people are doing. Still can not find the wipes in stores on a regular basis.

I think it’s very important in general. Since I’ve been following all these health protocols for COVID-19, I haven’t even gotten the sniffles from anything else. I’ve gotten used to being very conscientious about frequent hand washing, touching my face as little as possible, etc. My hope is that most other people have as well, and that many of these good health habits will stick with us even after the COVID-19 crisis becomes a thing of the past.

That’s kind of the way I feel about it too. By this point, the public health authorities should be able to identify spreading events related to non-airborne virus, and advise us appropriately. Thus far, I haven’t read a thing indicating that it’s a real vector for transmission, and every event that I have read about has had some major airborne component. So far, I have yet to read of an article about anyone who contracted COVID-19 from an elevator button, or a contaminated milk carton or whatever.

There had been a little of this here and there – the most high-profile account I can recall was the “Case of the German salt shaker”. In retrospect, it seems to this layman like it was actually breathing in someone else’s exhaled aerosols that did it, not the salt shaker. But I’ve not seen that specific account revisited.

Another case that was once big news – but has since dried up and blown away – was the “Hong Kong apartment house plumbing spread” from February. You’ll notice immediately upon reading the article that simple aerosol spread via breathing and poor indoor ventilation was not yet countenanced.

Still, two articles from before early April are hardly conclusive proof that it’s spread by anything other than airborne particles. And in both articles, it could have been airborne spread.

I would imagine that epidemiologists would have nailed it down by now if there had been any serious transmission through touch, and we’d have heard about it.

That said, there’s no reason to stop doing any of that stuff like handwashing and disinfection of commonly touched surfaces- it protects against plenty of other diseases that are easy to catch as well- enteroviruses, influenza, ringworm and other funguses, etc…

Right – my point exactly. And I would go so far as to say (even without hard evidence in hand) that in both cases it almost certainly was, indeed, airborne spread.

And agreed on handwashing helping with other illnesses.

One way it helps is to prevent you getting sick from something which is transmitted through touch even if it’s not coronavirus. If you develop symptoms, you won’t really know if it is from allergies, a common cold, or from CV19 without a test. And you should self-quarantine until you know for sure. So to avoid all that hassle, being diligent about handwashing means you’ll have fewer things to be worried about.

And the social distancing. Here is a graph from the Seattle area showing all respiratory infections over the past year. You can see when all that social distancing started!

What I know is that Dr. Hope,a front line COVID-19 doctor on YouTube, says that it’s still of higher level importance than mask wearing, along with keeping socially distant and not touching faces.

So, if surface to hand to face contamination is rare, then I would suppose that hand to face is still more likely.

That said, I’m not entirely sure how well you can tell the difference between airborne and surface contamination if it happens in a short timespan. How could you tell it was from the air and not the surface that got touched in the last couple of seconds?

Like most measures against the coronavirus, there’s a simple utility calculation: there’s no chance of it doing any harm, it comes at virtually no cost, and it’s got a tiny chance of reducing the spread of the virus, potentially saving lives, plus other fringe benefits, such as reducing the impact of other infectious diseases. Plus, clean hands. So it’s a no-brainer: wash your hands.

This article from August has a lot of relevant information.

It says experts are skeptical about transmission by food, or say, packages from the grocery store, but still warn about touching surfaces when you’re out in public and then touching your face. It sounds like they might think that refrigeration played a part in the spread in meat packing plants, which seems to suggest that surfaces might have played a part.

From all reports, the southern hemisphere, which has winter (and therefore flu season) when the north has summer, has had a very light flu season this year. And it’s mainly credited to all the coronavirus precautions. So if we keep up the sanitizing, hand washing, and social distancing, we’re going to dodge that twindemic that a lot of people are worried about. Finally, a ray of sunshine in this pandemic year.

ETA: closing schools helped a lot too.

Yes. Around 1000 dead old people from COVID this year in AUS, which is about 1000 less than would normally die from flu.

Which, as some people have noticed, suggests that if aged care homes were really taking care normally, there wouldn’t be so many dying from flu normally.

But it also raises the question that perhaps the measures which are effective against the flu aren’t really effective against COVID.

It is well-known that obsessive :slight_smile: handwashing practically eliminates cold and flu. If being in a place where you can get COVID from touching things /also/ means that you’re going to get it anyway from just breathing, and if being in a place where you can’t get it from just breathing means you can’t get it from touching things, then, whatever the benefit from avoiding cold and flu, it’s not helping you avoid COVID.

Old people do not want to live their normal daily lives with the kinds of precautions that are being enforced for COVID prevention. Neither would anyone else.

My dad lives in an assisted-living facility. Prior to the pandemic, he chose his meals from a menu and ate in a dining room at a table with friends. He was free to go off-campus at any time. He could have friends and family from outside come in to visit him, and the facility also held numerous group events and hosted outside entertainers (singing groups, people with friendly dogs, etc.)

Since April, he and his fellow residents have been receiving their meals alone in their rooms. No menu, you get what they happen to be delivering that day, and it’s typically lukewarm upon arrival. Mask-wearing and social distancing are enforced, which is a huge problem for elderly folks at these places, many of whom can’t hear well and also can’t speak loudly/clearly. No outside visitors allowed (this includes family, friends, and the usual parade of entertainers). No going off-campus, except for required medical exams. The isolation is devastating; it’s a shit way to live. COVID has killled a lot of elderly folks (including 11 where he lives before they got their outbreak under control), but it’s likely the isolation is killing some as well. People can put up with these measures while they hope for a vaccine to arrive within a reasonable timeframe, but it’s too much to ask seniors to live like this for 1/3-1/2 of every single year for the rest of their lives.

It is? Frequent hand-washing seems to make a positive difference. But eliminating colds/flu (even qualified by ‘practically’)?

:slight_smile: Finally, somebody else has done the work for me: