Hygiene theater

Source: Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

Hygiene theater is the practice of taking hygiene measures that are intended to give the illusion of improved safety while doing little to actually reduce any risk. During the COVID-19 pandemic, hygiene theater has often been performed by retail businesses in an effort to ameliorate concerns of potential customers, while actually doing little to mitigate the risk of contracting SARS-CoV-2.[1][2][3][4][5][6][7]


One of the first written uses of the term was in a March 6, 2020, blog post by Bob Cooney, a recreational virtual-reality consultant,[8] in which he said that VR-arcade operators should "practice hygiene theater" for customers as the COVID-19 pandemic began.[9] Even earlier written use was in a listener's comment on April 29, 2020, on radio personality Tom Leykis's website.[10] On July 27, 2020, Derek Thompson, a staff writer for The Atlantic, used the term when referring to hygiene measures being taken during the COVID-19 pandemic that have done little to reduce the spread of COVID-19 and have provided a false sense of security.[1][3]

Measures taken against COVID-19 that have been referred to as hygiene theater include deep cleaning (aside from in hospitals), temperature checks, plexiglass barriers, and the spraying of disinfectants by humans and robots.[1][2][3][5] Cleaning and disinfection measures have persisted despite widespread recognition that SARS-CoV-2 rarely, if ever, spreads through surface contact.[7][11]

In the United States, many forms of hygiene theater were still in use in some establishments in June 2021.[12] Organizations such as the Kennedy Center continued to deploy temperature checks, even while acknowledging that the benefits were psychological, not medicinal.[12] However, amidst the general reopening of the US, the specifics of what practices were done were varied enormously, as companies updated rules and continued to adapt to customer behavior.[12]

See also


  1. ^ a b c Thompson, Derek (July 27, 2020). "Hygiene Theater Is a Huge Waste of Time". The Atlantic. Archived from the original on April 8, 2021. Retrieved February 22, 2021.
  2. ^ a b Thompson, Derek (February 8, 2021). "Hygiene Theater Is Still a Huge Waste of Time". The Atlantic. Retrieved February 22, 2021.{{cite news}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  3. ^ a b c Landsverk, Gabby (October 14, 2020). "5 bogus coronavirus protection measures that are just 'hygiene theater' — and 2 things that actually do work". Insider. Retrieved February 22, 2021.{{cite news}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  4. ^ Palumbo, Alysha (November 24, 2020). "Is Deep Cleaning Just 'Hygiene Theater' in the Age of COVID?". WBTS-CD. Retrieved February 22, 2021.{{cite news}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  5. ^ a b Thorbecke, Catherine; Lambert, Alexandra (September 20, 2020). "'Hygiene theater': Disinfecting sprays and sanitizing robots alone won't keep you safe from COVID-19". ABC News. Retrieved February 22, 2021.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  6. ^ Ives, Mike; Mandavilli, Apoorva (November 19, 2020). "The Coronavirus Is Airborne Indoors. Why Are We Still Scrubbing Surfaces?". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved February 22, 2021.{{cite news}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  7. ^ a b Anthes, Emily (April 8, 2021). "Has the Era of Overzealous Cleaning Finally Come to an End? -- This week, the C.D.C. acknowledged what scientists have been saying for months: The risk of catching the coronavirus from surfaces is low". The New York Times. Archived from the original on April 8, 2021.
  8. ^ "Pandemic Travel Buzzwords We Hope Get Left Behind in 2020" Skift.com. Retrieved 2022-01-16.
  9. ^ "Word of the week: Hygiene theater" Fritinancy. Retrieved 2022-01-16.
  10. ^ "Apr 28th, 2020 | Tom Talks". April 28, 2020.
  11. ^ Lewis, Dyani (January 29, 2021). "COVID-19 rarely spreads through surfaces. So why are we still deep cleaning?". Retrieved April 10, 2021.
  12. ^ a b c Fisher, Marc (June 14, 2021). "Temp checks, digital menus and 'touchless' mustard: The maddening persistence of 'hygiene theater'". Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved June 14, 2021.