Op-ed: We’re doing too much COVID-19 cleaning

There is no need to constantly disinfect surfaces to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, according to Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health’s Joseph Allen and other experts.

In a December 11, 2020 Washington Post op-ed, Allen—associate professor of exposure assessment science and director of the School’s Healthy Buildings Program—and his co-authors wrote, “We don’t have a single documented case of covid-19 transmission from surfaces. Not one.” They added, “The reality is that the novel coronavirus spreads mainly through the air.”

They explained that while other viruses, such as rhinovirus and norovirus, are transmitted through contaminated surfaces—known as “fomites”—evidence suggests that such transmission is not common with the coronavirus. And any potential fomite transmission from the coronavirus can be prevented through regular handwashing or use of hand sanitizer, according to the authors.

They argued that much of the extra cleaning that businesses and organizations have been doing is “hygiene theater,” and that all the time and money required for such efforts would be better directed elsewhere. “If the vast majority of transmission occurs through the air rather than fomites, and airborne transmission is what is driving superspreading events, then we should shift our effort toward cleaning shared air, not shared surfaces,” they wrote.

Read the Washington Post op-ed: We are over-cleaning in response to covid-19