At the Confederation Center Public Library in Prince Edward Island, returned books are quarantined for 72 hours. In Toronto, the library system’s COVID-19 protocol on its website requires returned materials to be set aside for “96 hours or more until they can circulate safely.”
All Loblaw banners in Canada still go through “enhanced” sanitizing processes, including frequent deep cleaning of all areas of the store.
“In fact, we’re going above and beyond what was necessary,” Loblaw Business Director Mark Boudreau said, adding that some of the grocery chain’s COVID-19 clean-up protocols could become permanent.
Across Canada, individuals and institutions are applying the same deep cleaning and product quarantine protocols that were expected at the start of the pandemic. But experts say it’s time to move beyond ‘hygiene theater’ – or cleaning behaviors that make people feel safe and secure, but it’s actually unlikely they will. reduce the likelihood of transmission of COVID-19.
And the environmental impact of disposable wipes, the cost of disinfection supplies, and the burden on restaurant and retail workers to maintain strict cleaning measures against COVID-19 are more reasons to start being pragmatic – and to stop wiping groceries and mail.
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“Part of the problem that we face, I think as infectious physicians and virologists, is [getting] people understand that just knowing that a virus is present in something on a surface, or in an aerosol, does not mean that it is an effective way for the virus to be transmitted, as viruses all undergo kinds of changes that can affect one’s infectivity, one’s ability to bind to a receptor on a person that allows infection, ”said Dr. Gerald Evans, medical director of infection prevention and control at Kingston Health Sciences Center and professor at Queen’s University.
Dr Evans added that one of the problems with disposable wipes is that they contribute to “general waste problems”.
Dr. Peter Jüni, Scientific Director of the Ontario COVID-19 Science Advisory Table, said that in public spaces and community settings outside of households, the risk of surface transmission is relatively low and can “be easily treated by conventional cleaning – without deep cleaning, deep disinfection, and [by using] hand sanitizer. “
In outdoor public spaces, such as playgrounds, ultraviolet light also helps decontaminate surfaces, Dr Jüni said.
Dr Evans referred to a German study which showed that grocery stores as a source of any sort of transmission of COVID-19 were “decidedly rare, again, probably related to the fact that people don’t really spend a lot of time. in a grocery store, ”he said.
But COVID-19 cleaning protocols – especially in grocery stores – are heartwarming for some, like Toronto-based professional photographer and videographer Rob Stilez.
“Honestly, I think it’s mentally… relaxing, a bit,” said Mr Stilez, who received his first dose of the vaccine last month but still wears a pair of disposable gloves in his back pocket and disinfects each mail order package. before letting it rest on its balcony.
For others, COVID-19 cleanup protocols have become a distraction.
Dr. Leighanne Parkes, an infectious disease specialist and microbiologist at McGill University and the Jewish General Hospital who works in the field of infection prevention and control, said: “There is a cognitive dissonance between reality and what you perceive to be safe.
“Should we erase our paperbacks in the library, or… quarantine them for 24 hours before releasing them?” I don’t think it probably plays a significant role in transmission, ”Dr Parkes said.
On the contrary, this focus on disinfecting surfaces takes away “what is really important,” said Dr Parkes, such as “improving ventilation in places where we know we have the greatest risk of transmission, such as our long-term care facilities, et cetera, ”Or reinventing the physical space of individuals in workplaces and institutions.
Mike Barber, a writer and editor who lives in Toronto, said he used to quarantine his cannabis shipments from British Columbia before deciding it only added to his anxiety.
Mr Barber said he is now thinking about the burden of cleaning up COVID-19 on grocery store workers, retailers and waiters.
“The people who suffer the most are the ones who are paid the least to do it,” said Barber. “And especially since the evidence is confirmed [about transmission]I have been very curious to see when companies in particular will end these practices. “
While experts agree that hand hygiene should remain a habit of life beyond the pandemic and that getting vaccinated is the best form of protection against COVID-19, it is time for the hygiene theater comes to an end, they say.
“I think you know, regardless of the vaccine, we can probably facilitate a lot of cleaning up our environment,” Dr. Parkes said.
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