JoCo health officials say evidence does not support need for widespread glove use to prevent COVID-19

Glove use is not recommended in most service industry roles, like waiters, say Johnson County health officials. Photo credit Navy Medicine. Used under a Creative Commons license.

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Saying that they’ve been hearing of more and more organizations encouraging employees to wear rubber or latex gloves during the pandemic, Johnson County health officials today issued the following letter noting that there is currently not evidence to support glove use as an effective way to stop spread of the virus:

We are getting feedback from our local grocery stores, the food service industry and others in the general public who are advocating for wearing gloves as a protective measure against the spread of COVID-19. This joint letter is to express that in most cases, the wearing of gloves by the general public and in most types of employment as a preventive measure is not based on evidence and not recommended by the CDC nor Johnson County Government’s health experts.

To be more specific, we do not recommend restaurant employees wear gloves when they serve customers. Gloves should not be worn by restaurant staff when delivering plates of food, pouring beverages or bringing silverware. They should also not be worn by grocery store employees who stock shelves, bag groceries or work at the cash register. Gloves would be appropriate for people in those workplaces who handle raw food and wear gloves during typical times.

Not only do gloves offer a false sense of security, they can lead to increased transmission because people are wearing gloves instead of frequently washing their hands. We are not hearing that people are putting on new gloves in between each customer they serve. We have heard about people using hand sanitizer on their gloves, which leads to the degradation of those gloves and defeats their purpose.
Using the same gloves over and over between completing tasks of serving customers is the equivalent of not washing your hands in between completing those tasks and serving those customers. Instead, it is increasing the chance of transmission each time.

According to the CDC: In most other situations, like running errands, wearing gloves is not necessary. Instead, practice everyday preventive actions like keeping physical distance (at least 6 feet) from others, washing your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds or using a hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol. The CDC recommends wearing a cloth face covering in public situations where you cannot maintain physical distancing.

There are a few examples where employees should wear gloves, just like they would in typical times.

    • Serving customers ready to eat food from a serving line or buffet
    • Food preparation and handling
    • Performing cleaning or disinfecting
    • Working with chemicals
    • Providing health care

More information is available in this video. Thank you for helping us share this important information.

Dr. Sanmi Areola, Director, Johnson County Department of Health and Environment

Dr. Ryan Jacobsen, Medical Director, Johnson County Emergency Medical System

Dr. Joseph LeMaster, Johnson County Local Health Officer