COVID-19: Opening up and keeping safe at the same time. Is it even possible?

Hand Sanitizer without supporting signage is simply not enough.

As we write this, the COVID-19 response in Canada is in its fifth month, and uncertainty is still foremost among many people, who above all want an answer to the question of when all this disruption will be over.

The closest thing to an answer right now is frustratingly contradictory – an urge to hasten re-opening so that businesses can avoid bankruptcy is made bitter by the looming spectre of what anyone who’s studied outbreaks knows is coming next: subsequent waves of the pandemic.

This is a big part of why we’re so uneasy right now. We want two contradictory things.

The solution, like much about preventing infection, is many-faceted, multimodal and all-encompassing.

One thing that people are doing that’s a good start is making hand sanitizing stations available at entrances and exits of those buildings that are able to be open.

All the hand gel in the world won’t help if there aren’t any calls-to-action. There is a big, active difference in performance between a hand sanitizer stand and a hand sanitizing station!

We’d love if that solved the problem by itself, but the WHO recommendations (which we wrote about not that long ago) say that much more is needed. There needs to be signage to set standards of hygiene, hand gel that works, connected messaging via Social Media & websites and so on. Ultimately, a facility should be a macrocosm of its inhabitants: we wear masks both because they work, and because they show our commitment to ending this pandemic through whatever we can do. Facilities need to do their part AND show it off, too, just like the people!

In short, if a business, school or any other facility wants to receive people at this stage of the pandemic they need to make it clear that they are doing all in their power that they can. This starts at putting hand sanitizing stations at all entrances, and ends when nobody entering or leaving is missed.

This means we CAN open up while keeping everybody safe. Those two aren’t contradictory. But infection prevention is hard, diligent work that needs to be taken seriously and handled consistently. One screw-up is all it takes to prevent the chain of infection from breaking and then we’re back at square one.

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