Flanked by Guam’s top medical and health professionals, Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero has held several press conferences in recent months about the status of Covid-19 in Guam. In addition to getting a vaccination, they advocate at every possible turn for the three Ws of prevention: Wear a mask, Watch your distance, Wash your hands.
Yet still the virus and its deadly variants continue to run rampant despite a vaccination rate of nearly 80 percent with the majority of cases and deaths among the unvaccinated.
But why the increase if the island has reached herd immunity? While the professionals at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and their partner agencies work to find the answer to that all-important question, perhaps it’s time for the governor to add something more to her arsenal of mandates of showing proof of vaccination when dining in at a restaurant; limiting the size of social gatherings; and, sending schoolchildren home.
It’s time to consider the little things that, as the saying goes, count – things that spread the virus but few think about.
Although research is ongoing to determine how long the virus remains alive on surfaces, the possible transference from surface to hand to face is real.
According to the CDC, “on non-porous surfaces, viable virus can be detected for days to weeks.”
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As a result, many grocery stores are wiping or spraying down shopping carts and baskets after each use, and most wipe the cashier’s conveyor before the next customer puts items on it. Restaurants are also wiping down tables after clearing them of used dishes.
But few, if any, businesses are wiping down the pens used to sign contact tracing sheets after each use. Some have small boxes next to the sheet for sorting “used” and “sanitized” pens but monitoring is often lackadaisical at best.
And what about the pens they give to customers along with the bill? Are they wiped with sanitizing wipes in between uses?
A few businesses wipe down counters in between customers, but not all. What happens when a customer lays their phone on that unsanitized counter while paying the cashier, then picks it up and unconsciously rubs an eye? Does that phone ever get wiped down by the owner? Does the shopper use hand sanitizer upon entering her car after shopping?
And what about those door handles? Are they wiped down throughout the day?
Why is the governor passing around a microphone during her press conferences without wiping it down in between? Why was the podium microphone not wiped in between speakers at another recent press conference? Has the long conference table that they sit at been sanitized beforehand?
Although masks are worn and are well known to help prevent the spread through droplets, more could be done to prevent it through unconscious touch.
Think about all of the surfaces we touch in a day, then touch our face or scratch our nose. Could some of the cases of transmission be prevented with a higher level of attention to these small details?
While the CDC has lowered the risk level of transmission through contaminated surfaces since the virus first began its race around the world, perhaps it’s time to up the game here in Guam to include more of these simple, preventive measures in the quiver.
I suggest the governor take several more do-as-I-do steps during her public appearances by wiping down that microphone between speakers; not sharing pens or the remote control without first giving them a good wipe; mentioning that the table has been wiped down and will be again after the meeting; and becoming aware of showing by example, not just by spoken word, how we can all help Guam get to the next level of prevention by adding these steps to the three Ws and one V.