Viewpoint: Why are we still disinfecting everything?

More than two years into the pandemic, it's widely accepted that COVID-19 spreads through airborne transmission and that the risk of contracting the virus from a contaminated surface is low. Despite this knowledge, Americans can't seem to let go of ineffective cleaning and disinfection practices, Yasmin Tayag wrote in a July 7 article in The Atlantic. 

While most Americans are no longer wiping down their groceries after a shopping trip, many businesses and public spaces are still promoting their comprehensive disinfection processes. 

"Public bathrooms tout regular spray-downs with disinfectant. Elevators advertise self-cleaning buttons. At my local Marshalls, the cashier sanitizes the credit-card reader after every use — even if I use Apple Pay!" Ms. Tayag wrote.

These more performative measures — referred to as "hygiene theater" — have outlasted measures such as masking and vaccine requirements, which are far more effective at preventing COVID-19 spread, according to Ms. Tayag.   

"At its best, hygiene theater is benign — albeit time-consuming, wasteful and expensive," she wrote. "Hygiene theater becomes a serious problem, however, when it falsely reassures people that an environment is safe, giving them permission to relax their expectations and behavior."

Read the full article here.


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