During the COVID-19 pandemic, a number of “hot spots” were identified early on where the virus spread to large populations in New York, Washington and California.
When it comes to spreading COVID-19, plus other germs, bacteria and viruses, every public building and business has hot spots as well. These are areas that dozens of people touch on a normal day.
Consider how many people touch a restaurant menu during a normal week. Think about how often somebody reaches for the restroom doors in your office. Try to count how many fingers and hands make contact with elevator buttons, railings, conference room tables and light switches in a given workday.
Each contact has the potential to leave behind and pass along droplets from a sneeze or cough. Surfaces also collect particles that people can emit by just talking or exhaling. These droplets can contain a number of illness-inducing germs.
In fact, according to researchers at the University of Colorado, the average person’s hand carries more than 3,000 bacteria from at least 100 species.
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) cites studies of COVID-19 that suggest it can remain viable for hours or days on surfaces, regardless of the material. Furthermore, it’s possible for the virus to spread by a person touching a contaminated surface or object and then touching their own mouth, nose, or eyes.
It’s not just the coronavirus that can live on surfaces. Bacteria can remain unchanged on an object after two weeks at room temperature. Studies have shown that influenza can survive on surfaces and can infect a person for up to eight hours.
It’s impossible to clean a common surface every time a person touches it. And no matter how much people are warned not to touch their faces, it’s become a habit too difficult for many to break.
The best way to minimize the spread of germs through common surfaces is to reduce the amount of contact altogether. Some state governors, such as Wisconsin’s Tony Evers, have issued touch-free guidelines to businesses as they prepare to reopen.
A goal for all businesses to aim for in the post coronavirus world is to help employees and visitors avoid touching as many of the same surfaces as possible.
Ideas to accomplish this goal include:
- Installing hands-free, foot-operated door openers on all common doors, especially restroom doors. This will minimize how often employees touch germ-infested door handles with their hands. This is an inexpensive fix; you can easily install a device for about $30 per door.
- Installing motion-detection lighting throughout their facilities to reduce the touching of light switches. This can also decrease energy bills as lights will only come on when needed, which is better for the environment.
- Updating water, ice and beverage dispensers so they don’t require a user to touch a surface with their used cup to make the machine dispense liquid.
- Encouraging employees, customers and visitors to avoid touching surfaces with their fingertips. This is the part of the hand most likely to transmit a virus. Instruct people to use objects such as pens to push elevator doors and tissues to grab handrails.
The new normal in the post-pandemic world is that more people will think about how everyday actions can spread germs and viruses. This preoccupation will not be limited to germaphobes. People will for a long time remember how COVID-19 killed and sickened thousands and led to a virtual halt to our way of life.
A business that wants to appeal to employees and customers in this new world will take the necessary steps to minimize how many objects people have to touch.