If you’re like a lot of people, you’ve been doing sanitation gymnastics for months in an effort to prevent infection from the COVID-19 virus. Studies said it could live on countertops, door knobs and other surfaces for weeks and only bleach and disinfectant could save us. But is that true?
Across America, and most of the rest of the world, cleaning products are in short supply, kitchens and bathrooms are being cleaned, cleaned again and then once more. Parents are directing their kids to disinfect everything from their bedroom furniture to door knobs to the family pet.
One Florida man even took to spraying the entire town of Wauchula, Florida with hydrogen peroxide. (1) The local government gave him permission and he was adamant about it’s efficacy, stating “I think every city in the damn United States needs to be doing it!”
All in an effort to stop a virus with a 99.96% survival rate.
The breathless hair hats in the media slavishly reported on even the most dubious scientific studies that told us the Wuhan coronavirus could survive for hours on just about any surface (except copper – your pennies are safe.) One study actually said that the COVID-19 virus could remain active on your pets for up to 3 days.
Mind you, that study didn’t differentiate between types of pets. So apparently, your goldfish was swimming around just waiting to infect someone. And your Iguana? Don’t get me started.
Now, a microbiology professor at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School has taken the CDC’s earlier modification of surface spread risk all the way. Emanuel Goldman has authored an article published in The Lancet entitled “Exaggerated risk of transmission of COVID-19 by fomites.”
Goldman dismantles the research that led us to believe what we did about COVID-19 and surfaces. He explains that the studies in which lengthy surface survival was “proven” used faulty premises and were virtually designed to prove a predisposed idea.
He explains that the studies used an amount of the virus that would only be found on a surface if 100 or so people sneezed in exactly the same spot, repeatedly. He told the Atlantic that the studies “stacked the deck to get a result that bears no resemblance to the real world.” (2)
The reality of all this is quite simple. Transmission of the COVID-19 virus from surfaces is very rare. Not impossible, just improbable. How improbable? Well, to get infected with COVID-19 by touching a contaminated surface, or fomite, here’s what would likely have to happen.
Someone infected with the virus would have to sneeze or cough on the surface, or on their hand just before touching it. You would then have to touch that surface within minutes to pick up enough active virus to matter. You would then almost immediately have to put your fingers in your nose, mouth or eyes (maybe; eye transmission is still seriously in question, despite Dr. Fauci’s feeble face-shield recommendation.)
Gross, right? In scientific terms, that’s what’s called asking for it. Now, if you just said, “my kids do that all the time,” don’t panic. Study after study continue to show that when your kids encounter the COVID-19 virus, their immune system takes it out in the alley and beats it to death with a proverbial baseball bat.
Does that mean your kids can’t get sick from the virus? No, of course not. But go look at the statistics, then go read the readily-available science on the subject. Their risk of getting more than mildly ill or spreading the virus is minimal, despite what the media idiots keep telling you.
What it does mean is we can stop all the virus-culture virtue signalling and get about our business. Here is what Goldman tells us in the the Lancet piece:
- The likelihood of transmission from an inanimate surface is very small.
- An infected person would have had to cough or sneeze on the surface, which is then touched by another person soon after.
- Precautions like hand-washing and periodic disinfecting of surfaces, as well as wearing gloves in a hospital setting, are reasonable.
- Fomites outside the hospital setting that haven’t been in contact with an infected person for hours do not pose a risk.
Goldman concludes by saying “A more balanced perspective is needed to curb excesses that become counterproductive.” (3) Now I realize Goldman is just a humble microbiologist and not an overpaid mannequin at some media outlet peddling fear for more clicks and ad revenue, but he might know a little about the subject, don’t you think?
Goldman’s approach and perspective makes obvious and gut-level sense. You and I both know he’s right. Yes, he might be wrong. Probably not, at least not according to the massive pile of science being produced on this subject right now.
I think Derek Thompson, the writer of The Atlantic piece “The Scourge of Hygiene Theater,” wrote something that covers this possibility:
“As a thousand internet commenters know by heart, absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. But with hundreds, and perhaps thousands, of scientists around the world tracing COVID-19’s chains of transmission, the extreme infrequency of evidence may indeed be evidence of extreme infrequency.” (2)
In other words, we keep getting the same lack of evidence for surface-based transmission of COVID-19. At some point, then, (how about now?) we have to conclude there is no evidence that this is a legitimate and widespread transmission method.
The good news? You can stop opening doors with a disinfectant wipe. You can stop spraying your food with bleach after shopping. You can touch things without having a vision of yourself on a ventilator. You can take practical precautions and use good judgement.
Wash your hands. Wear a mask where appropriate. (Topic for another time…) Use physical distancing where appropriate. (Fewer and fewer situations as days go by.) Stay home if you feel sick. Eat well, get enough sleep, get some exercise and get outside in the sun.
All practical advice. That last part is evergreen, meaning it’s always good advice, pandemic or not.
Keep the faith and keep after it!
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