Gloves and COVID-19

Gordon Johnson, Extension Vegetable & Fruit Specialist;

Gloves are often used in food service to reduce the transmission of food-borne pathogens. However, COVID 19 is a respiratory disease transmitted through respiratory droplet dispersal when those carrying the virus cough or sneeze. The virus then may be transmitted to the mouth or nose of nearby people or may be inhaled into the lungs. There is no evidence that it Is transmitted directly through food. Therefore, glove use in routine handling of produce is of limited value to reduce transmission of the virus.

Close contact (such as hand shaking) is involved in transmission, which is why physical distancing is critical and is working to reduce spread of the disease. Train to wash hands frequently and to also eliminate face touching to limit transmission.

It is very important to have good handwashing facilities, to train employees on handwashing and to require frequent handwashing. Retail customers should be encouraged to wash hands if practical, and in lieu of handwashing access, to use hand sanitizer that you have placed at entrances. Signs on how to properly wash hands or use hand sanitizer should be in place throughout facilities.

Surface to person spread is a less likely mode of spread. However, it is still recommended to frequently sanitize surfaces. First concentrate on those surfaces frequently touched by employees or customers such as door handles. Continue sanitary practices for produce food safety throughout packing areas or sales areas that include a disinfecting step during cleaning and increase the frequency of cleaning and disinfecting, especially in “high touch” areas.

Where do disposable gloves fit then? Gloves, if properly used, can further limit person to person or surface to person spread. If you interact with a customer where hand touching occurs (such as handing produce) or surface to hand activities occur (such as during payment), gloves can provide another layer of defense. However, it is not better than handwashing. Remember that if gloves become contaminated with the COVID-19 virus and you touch your face, the virus can then be transmitted to you.

If gloves are used, they need to be disposed of after every direct person to person interaction, after which hands need to be washed again and then new gloves put on. Gloves must also be removed and disposed of properly to avoid spread.

In other agricultural activities, gloves of different types are important to eliminate skin contact with dangerous chemicals and materials, to protect hands, and to cover cuts.

safe glove use technique