Good advice, but only on the face of it
It is now the first week of April, 2020 and we are far enough into this now to look back at the early mistakes. For me, the mistakes in messaging and communication are the most glaring, the most avoidable and therefore the most troublesome, and the fact is that many of those troubling messages are still being circulated. One of the most egregious errors in communication, and one that still persists, is the directive to “Avoid Touching Your Face.” Here are my reasons:
It is basically impossible for a human not to touch their face. It’s like telling us to stop our hearts from beating. What are we to do when we have an itch to scratch or simply forget and submit to habit? And even if we were to presume the average adult could muster the discipline, trying to enforce this anti-habit on our children is laughable.
The reasoning for not touching our faces was to stop the transfer of the virus from our fingers to our bodies by way of our mouth, nose or eyes. There was no indication that scratching one’s cheek or chin or the outside of one’s nose was a problem.
The prominence of this directive also promoted the idea that the virus was a surface contaminant transmissible primarily, if not exclusively, by touch, when the indicators were there from the beginning that this virus had “airborne” properties.
I believe it was a major mistake that the public was not encouraged, if not compelled, to wear some form of mask from the outset. A mask, even if not a prophylactic for inhaling the virus, does serve to inhibit the spread of the person’s breath, cough or sneeze, AND it provides the necessary barrier to prevent one from touching their own mouth and nose with contaminated fingers. I think it is important to document and discuss these failings and how we can do better, not just for today, but for future outbreaks.