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Is hand-washing overrated? Is mask-wearing a better way to prevent virus spread?

Maria Gomez, Barry Molett
Posted at 12:58 PM, Dec 12, 2022

Disinfecting surfaces, wiping down groceries, and washing our hands until they were raw was part of many Americans’ routine in the early days of the pandemic.

One expert says all of those things didn't do much to protect us from getting COVID-19.

"I started researching the literature and was shocked by what I found that the scientific basis for these recommendations was very flimsy,” said Emanuel Goldman, a professor of microbiology at Rutgers.

He researched COVID-19 on surfaces and says it's almost impossible to catch the virus this way.

"It's a matter of timing,” he said. “If the surface that's contaminated that you touch, if it's still wet with the virus in it, there is a possibility you could transmit it."

He says you would have to touch the virus and then immediately touch your mouth, nose or eyes.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says your chance of getting COVID from a surface is 1 in 10 thousand.

Goldman believes the odds are even higher than that.

“Not only does the surface still have to have live virus on it, but then you've gotta get it on your fingers. And the fingers are not good vehicles for transporting the virus,” he said.

While it appears hand-washing doesn't do much for airborne viruses, like COVID or flu, he says it's still important to practice good handwashing to prevent other illnesses from spreading through close contact and touch.

And when it comes to COVID-19, he says masks are your best protection.