New CDC Guidance Reinforces Low Risk Of Picking Up COVID From Touching Things, Like Screens

April 7, 2021 by Dave Haynes

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control has issued new guidance on the ubiquitous sight of staffers in retail, mass transport and elsewhere spraying and wiping down surfaces with disinfectant, or even doing something akin to fogging a room.

The short version is that all this activity may have the theatrical impact of showing the venue is doing what it can to make the venue safe during a pandemic, but it’s not all that useful or necessary.

This matters in the context of digital display technology because there are still lots of interactive screens unplugged or decommissioned in some fashion, to ostensibly protect visitors by keeping them away from the touch-driven surfaces.

There are still lots of white papers and marketing pieces, as well, touting touchless solutions, with the idea that touch-based interactions are risky.

They are, but barely.

The CDC says studies show: “… that the risk of SARS-CoV-2 infection via the fomite transmission route is low, and generally less than 1 in 10,000, which means that each contact with a contaminated surface has less than a 1 in 10,000 chance of causing an infection.”

So it’s not nothing, but it’s not necessarily a scenario that requires staff allocated all day, every day, to spritzing screens and then wiping them down between uses. We’ve all seen reports of schools closed for days, for deep cleaning, and buses and subway cars wiped down in what has been called hygiene theater.

The thing about touchscreens is they negate the need to talk one-to-one with a staffer at a store, restaurant or elsewhere – an exchange that is FAR riskier than boinking away at a touchscreen.

From the CDC:

People can be infected with SARS-CoV-2 through contact with surfaces. However, based on available epidemiological data and studies of environmental transmission factors, surface transmission is not the main route by which SARS-CoV-2 spreads, and the risk is considered to be low. The principal mode by which people are infected with SARS-CoV-2 is through exposure to respiratory droplets carrying infectious virus.

In most situations, cleaning surfaces using soap or detergent, and not disinfecting, is enough to reduce risk. Disinfection is recommended in indoor community settings where there has been a suspected or confirmed case of COVID-19 within the last 24 hours. The risk of fomite transmission can be reduced by wearing masks consistently and correctly, practicing hand hygiene, cleaning, and taking other measures to maintain healthy facilities.

Display industry analyst Bob Raikes notes in Display Daily that the risk is estimated at 1 in 10,000 per contact: “In other words, a relatively complex set of interactions would reduce that probability. That is to say, if a process, such as buying a train ticket or making a full fast food order took 10 touches, the probability reduces to 1 in 1,000.

If you are out in public using a touch screen, whip out the hand sanitizer after and do your thing. But if you are out in public pulling on door handles to get in, or holding rails to get up or down a level, whip out the hand sanitizer after and do your thing. Same thing.

And wear a mask.

And get vaccinated when it comes available.

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