"Hygiene Theater" doesn't reduce the risk of COVID-19

My family stopped wiping down all our groceries to "disinfect" them a couple months ago, mostly because of hygiene exhaustion. Then in May, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention clarified its own Web page about how COVID-19 spreads to state that "based on data from lab studies on COVID-19 and what we know about similar respiratory diseases, it may be possible that a person can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes, but this isn’t thought to be the main way the virus spreads."

Even so, there is no shortage of "hygiene theater," activities that might make people feel better but, according to microbiologist Emanuel Goldman's article in medical journal The Lancet, don't have much to do with how COVID-19 is actually transmitted. (Wear a fucking mask.) Derek Thompson writes in The Atlantic:

All those studies that made COVID-19 seem likely to live for days on metal and paper bags were based on unrealistically strong concentrations of the virus. As he explained to me, as many as 100 people would need to sneeze on the same area of a table to mimic some of their experimental conditions. The studies “stacked the deck to get a result that bears no resemblance to the real world," Goldman said[...]

A good case study of how the coronavirus spreads, and does not spread, is the famous March outbreak in a mixed-use skyscraper in Seoul, South Korea. On one side of the 11th floor of the building, about half the members of a chatty call center got sick. But less than 1 percent of the remainder of the building contracted COVID-19, even though more than 1,000 workers and residents shared elevators and were surely touching the same buttons within minutes of one another. “The call-center case is a great example,” says Donald Schaffner, a food-microbiology professor who studies disease contamination at Rutgers University. “You had clear airborne transmission with many, many opportunities for mass fomite transmission in the same place. But we just didn’t see it.” Schaffner told me, “In the entire peer-reviewed COVID-19 literature, I’ve found maybe one truly plausible report, in Singapore, of fomite transmission. And even there, it is not a slam-dunk case.”

The scientists I spoke with emphasized that people should still wash their hands, avoid touching their face when they’ve recently been in public areas, and even use gloves in certain high-contact jobs. They also said deep cleans were perfectly justified in hospitals. But they pointed out that the excesses of hygiene theater have negative consequences.

For one thing, an obsession with contaminated surfaces distracts from more effective ways to combat COVID-19. “People have prevention fatigue,” Goldman told me. “They’re exhausted by all the information we’re throwing at them. We have to communicate priorities clearly; otherwise, they’ll be overloaded.”