Coronavirus Makes Americans More Sensitive to Germs

Posted by Josny Bustamante on

As the world continues the day-to-day battle with COVID-19, many have started thinking about the future. 

When will we get to live normal lives again? What will normal look like? How will we collectively behave differently after enduring months of isolation, social-distancing, and sanitizing?

One thing is certain: more people will be taking actions to minimize the spread of germs. Consider the following changed behaviors revealed in the Healthy Hand Washing Survey by Bradley Corporation.

•    90 percent of respondents are washing their hands more frequently or more thoroughly or longer since the pandemic started.

•    78 percent are washing their hands six or more times a day. That’s compared to just 37 percent who washed up that often prior to the outbreak. 

•    Half of Americans say news coverage of cold and flu outbreaks in the past strongly influences their handwashing behavior to minimize the spread of flu. So it’s safe to conclude that several months of around-the-clock coverage of COVID-19 will force people to be more diligent about handwashing.

That’s not all. In the first weeks of the pandemic, Americans bought 73 percent more hand sanitizer and 32 percent more aerosol disinfectant, according to Nielsen data.

Politico magazine recently asked several dozen intellectuals what about the world will change permanently due to COVID-19. Deborah Tannen, a professor of linguistics at Georgetown University, answered:

“We know now that touching things, being with other people and breathing the air in an enclosed space can be risky. How quickly that awareness recedes will be different for different people, but it can never vanish completely for anyone who lived through this year. It could become second nature to recoil from shaking hands or touching our faces — and we might all find we can’t stop washing our hands.”

While germs and diseases have plagued the world throughout its history, it’s been generations since a virus has come along that so drastically altered the way we live. 

Wearing masks in public, maintaining a six-foot perimeter from others and staying home unless absolutely necessary are new habits for most. We closed schools and businesses, cancelled concerts and sporting events, and have deprived ourselves of nearly all social activity just to minimize the spread of germs. 

Nothing indicates COVID-19 will disappear anytime soon. So even as we loosen restrictions, our preoccupation with germs will remain for the foreseeable future.

That means, in addition to hand washing, the following habits will become more commonplace:

•    Avoiding public restrooms, especially those that require people to use their hands to flush, turn on faucets or open doors. In fact, some states, such as Wisconsin, are issuing guidelines that public restroom doors be made hands-free. Fortunately for businesses that don’t have hands-free door openers on their restrooms, you can easily fix this problem for just $30 per door.

•    Quarantining anytime they’ve come in contact with somebody who later got sick.

•    Wearing gloves to avoid touching common surfaces. 

•    Spending considerably more time cleaning their homes, cars and workspaces.

Employees often cite culture and environment when choosing a company to work for. Because of our increased sensitivity to germs, an ideal work environment will now include cleanliness. Workplaces will also need to make workers more comfortable by minimizing touchpoints.

Likewise, people want to do business with companies that provide the best overall experience. Going forward, that experience must be a sanitary one and limit how much customers use their hands.

A business that wants to appeal to employees and customers in this new world will take steps to minimize touchpoints, as well as the impression that germs are thriving in its environment.


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