Hudson Valley Needs to Chill About Gas Pumps Giving You COVID-19
For some reason, the Hudson Valley is suddenly obsessed with the idea of gas pumps making them sick.
Humans are strange creatures. The way we handle stressful situations can range from peculiar to downright terrifying. The recent coronavirus outbreak is a perfect example of the odd way we tend to react to things we have no control over.
Whether it's buying toilet paper in bulk, ingesting deadly fish tank chemicals thinking it will protect you from getting sick or wearing facemasks that actually make it easier to contract a disease, we really seem to be handling things poorly.
Another example of the self-destructive way we tend to tackle adversity is the sharing of dire warnings on social media from anonymous "experts." You've all probably seen these gems of information that are credited to a friend who knows someone who dated a nurse who overheard the head of the hospital say that something that sounds like it might actually be good advice.
One such warning that is spreading almost as fast as coronavirus through the Hudson Valley says that gas pumps are making people sick. Here's an example of one of the messages I've seen pop up on my feed:
FYI I just spoke with a friend who got called into an emergency meeting at his hospital. He said the virus is spreading quickly from gas pumps. He said to wear gloves or have a paper towel touch the pump and throw the napkins or gloves out before you get back in the car. Please tell everyone you know.
People have been frantically cutting and pasting this message, not even taking the time to wonder if it's really legit. But if you read the message and take a minute to think about it, you'll realize it's most likely made up.
First of all, what hospital has time to call an emergency meeting to talk about some top-secret intel about gas pumps being the main source of infection? Secondly, the testing for coronavirus has been so minimal, there's no possible way anyone has been able to conduct a study that shows a path to infection from using specific gas pumps. And finally, any message that ends with "please tell everyone you know" is obviously written by someone who's only goal is to go viral, not to help the general public.
But what's the harm? Surely, it can't hurt to be extra careful at the gas pump, right? While it's true that everyone should be using extra precautions right now, getting the public disproportionally worked up over things like deadly gas pumps takes the focus off of more important issues. Also, encouraging the public to don surgical gloves that are in short supply at hospitals can have a rippling effect.
In actuality, the gas pump is not some magical piece of equipment that attracts more coronavirus than anything else. Coronavirus is most commonly spread from person to person contact. In fact, most experts say the risk of getting sick from a gas pump is actually pretty low. Door knobs, shopping cart handles and even the gas pump's keypad all have the same chance of somehow transferring the virus to your hand. If you don't wash your hands properly and touch your face, that virus does have the possibility of infecting you. But it's not nearly as dangerous as simply standing less than six feet away from another person.
So no, hospitals are not having secret emergency meetings about gas pumps.
What you really should do to protect yourself is practice safe social distancing and proper handwashing. Taking extra precautions when touching public surfaces is also important, but none of them are any more dangerous than any other. Assume the virus is everywhere, not just on your gas pump, and don't touch your face until you properly wash your hands.
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