In the midst of the COVID-19 Coronavirus pandemic, more and more contractors delivering Grubhub, Uber Eats, Doordash, Postmates and others are wearing gloves. Is it a good idea? Is it a necessity? What is the best practice?
Doordash has been distributing gloves and sanitizer to their dashers, though distribution has been sporadic. But the question remains, is it really helpful?
In a nutshell: If used properly, gloves can help keep you safe. If not used properly, gloves have the potential of doing more harm than good.
Don't create a false sense of security
The biggest problem with gloves might be that they can create a false sense of security. I see a lot of people who wear them but don't do anything different about what they do with potentially contaminated surfaces.
Unfortunately, I see that with food handlers as well. They'll take your payment at the cash register and then go handle food while wearing the same pair of gloves.
Something I see oft repeated, and I think the phrase adds to the false sense of security. For example, this article provides good information on the use of gloves and masks, But then it says this to sum up a quote: “In short: the gloves may be protecting you but also transmitting the virus.”
I have a problem with that. The gloves are NOT protecting you. The gloves provide no more protection for you than going bare handed. Your skin provides protection from the virus. The virus coming in contact with your bare hands puts you at no more danger of being infected by the virus than if it happens with a gloved hand. The virus still has to find a way inside your body from that point for you to be infected. That can happen just as easily with gloved hands as it can with bare hands.
So why do health care workers wear gloves?
It's not that the gloves can't be a tool to prevent catching or spreading the virus. It's that they have to be used properly. Have you ever watched doctors or nurses when wearing gloves? Ever notice them with the hands up pose, just holding their hands up in the air? Even with gloves, they are conscious of what they are touching.
There's an extended routine involved with gloves. It starts with thorough and prolonged hand washing, making sure that one's hands are as sterile and disinfected as possible, before ever putting the gloves on. The clean hands reduce the possibility of contaminating the gloves when putting them on.
But they are still conscious about touching surfaces. When they scrub, they scrub up to their elbows. Once scrubbed, they keep their hands held up, otherwise contaminated water from scrubbing could run down onto surfaces that should be clean. Every effort is made, even with gloves on, to avoid touching potentially contaminated surfaces.
Gloves can provide enhanced safety when delivering for Grubhub, Uber Eats, Doordash, etc. when used properly.
The biggest advantage with gloves is that they do create a barrier between you and any potentially infected surface and that the barrier can be easily removed. When done properly, removing contaminated gloves is quicker and more effecting than hand washing. Gloves may also provide a level of reassurance to the customers and to the restaurant workers.
Understand that gloves should never be a substitute for hand washing. Frequent and consistent handwashing is a necessary part of the safe use of gloves. Unfortunately, opportunities for handwashing are fewer and more far between these days. When this whole thing started, I was washing down at nearly every restaurant. Now, many restaurants have made their restrooms inaccessible to anyone other than their own staff. Hand sanitizer, when available, can help with that situation, but like gloves it is never a substitute for good hand washing.
Gloves can work and can add a layer of safety, if used, removed, and disposed of properly. If the gloves are contaminated, you can remove them and dispose of them. But gloves only work IF you remove and dispose of them before spreading the contamination either to another surface, or to yourself.
Using gloves safely.
Here's an important rule to remember with or without gloves and whether or not delivering for Grubhub, Doordash, Uber Eats or others: If a virus is on any surface and that surface is touched, the virus may transfer to whatever touches it.
Did you ever play volcano as a kid? We used to play this game where we pretended the floor was molten lava. The furniture was safe. Certain other objects were safe. The idea was to move from one safe area to another without ever touching the lava.
In a way, it's a similar game for us today. The idea is to only touch the things we know are safe. That's not always possible, and that's where the gloves (and handwashing and sanitizing come in) – the idea is not to spread that contamination from one to another.
The key here is, if you are unsure if a surface might be holding a virus, assume that it does contain the virus. Assume that anything that touches that surface also now has the virus. Your mission is to ensure that virus doesn't get inside you or anyone else.
Start with the surfaces you have control over.
It starts of course with your hands. They have to be clean. Immaculate. Keep your nails short, wash thoroughly, every chance you get. And then pay attention to what you're touching after that. Did you touch something potentially infected? Your hands are now potentially infected – go back to square one. Wash.
What about your car? The steering wheel, the gear selecter, turn signals, radio. How about the handles? The belt buckles? You can't avoid touching them. Make sure they're disinfected to every extent possible. Have you touched anything with potentially infected hands (or gloves?) – well, now they are potentially infected. Disinfect once again.
What about anything you carry? Your keys. Catering bags. Make every effort to keep them free from contamination.
And wear clean clothes. It's best if you have something that's been freshly washed and dried, with hot water or high head drying, just to make sure all bases are covered.
Avoid touching surfaces you cannot control as much as possible.
Usually on deliveries, there are certain things you cannot avoid touching. Restaurants have handles or door knobs. There are the containers the food is in (are you totally sure everything was handled as safely as possible by the restaurant staff?). Don't forget about elevator buttons or buttons on apartment entry systems.
Any time you touch something that may be contaminated, assume that whatever you touched it with is contaminated, whether it's your hand or glove, until you've done something about that contamination.
That means that anything YOU touch can also be contaminated. If you use a gloved hand to open the door to the restaurant, and then pick up the food container with that same hand, you've potentially contaminated the food container. Or you get in your car you may now have contaminated the door handle or the steering wheel.
Eliminate any potential contamination.
If you have contacted any potentially contaminated surface with your glove, the usefulness of that glove is gone. DO NOT touch any other surfaces with that save glove, or you risk spreading the contamination. You need to properly dispose of the glove before touching anything else at all.
For this reason, I'll keep paper towels for things like opening doors or any other surfaces I absolutely cannot avoid touching. The paper towel serves as a barrier between you and whatever you touch, and it can be immediately disposed of.
But say you open a door with your gloved hand. If you keep that glove on and get in your car and drive, if that door handle was contaminated you have now spread the contamination to your steering wheel, door handles, phone screen, or anything else you touch. You need to dispose of that glove immediately.
My baseball glove method when it comes to wearing gloves delivering for apps like Doordash, Uber Eats or Grubhub.
One practice I've developed is that once I've put gloves on, I'm treating my left hand as though it's wearing a baseball glove. That glove is only allowed to touch the food packaging (plastic bag or box). Nothing else.
At the restaurant
I arrive at the restaurant and grab my gloves. If I need to grab the handle, I use a paper towel, and then dispose of that immediately (assuming there's a place to dispose of it). If the restaurant will let me use their restroom, I'll take the opportunity to wash up before putting my gloves on, otherwise I'll put them on before picking up the food.
I open the lid to my catering bag. I use Servit catering bags that I got from Webstaurant.com that have velcro which makes this process so much simpler, especially since I'm trying to avoid touching ANYTHING with my left hand. If someone is bringing the food out to me, I'm going to do all I can to ask them to put it in the bag directly so I'm not touching the packaging at all.
Many restaurants are starting to set the food out on a table or shelf, that way they can maintain a social distance. In times like this where I do have to handle the food, now it's with my left hand that I'm transferring the food into my catering bag.
By the way, if the restaurant requires a signature, I'm doing it with MY pen.
At this point, my right glove has made no contact with any surfaces that I do not control, and MAYBE my left hand has touched the bag or the box that the food is in. The only real possible source of contamination on either glove is my left glove if it touched the food packaging. So that just comes down to how comfortable are you that the restaurant has done all it should to. If you ever watch all the things they touch with gloved hands, I'm not taking chances.
Getting in the car and driving.
The chances of the packaging being contaminated are extremely small. But it's a small possibility. So that's why I'm not touching anything at all with my left hand. It's pretty useless for now. My right glove is safe – it's only touched things that I've made sure are clean already, and I'm incredibly protective of those surfaces.
I will open the doors, place the catering bag in the car, and drive right handed. I'm holding my left hand straight up avoiding touching ANYTHING. It's that baseball glove, just not really doing anything until it is needed again.
At the customer's.
I get out of the car, my keys held in the right hand. The whole production of getting out of the car is all one handed, left hand is just being held up and out of the way. I'll sling my right arm through the carrying straps of my bag and carry the food that way.
The reason the key is in my right hand is if I need to press any buttons – the doorbell, the apartment entry call box, elevator buttons. The very tip of the key gets that honor.
At the customer door, I'll hold my left arm under the catering bag (hand extended so it's not touching anything) and open the lid with my right hand. If the customer comes out, I can hold out the bag so the customer can take the food out of the bag directly. If I do have to take the food out myself, such as with a no contact delivery, I'm using my left hand to do it – the same hand that was in contact with the packaging. That way there's nothing new going on here – I'm not introducing anything to the packaging that wasn't already there.
Wrapping up at the end of the delivery.
When all is said and done, the only surfaces I've touched with my right glove are the ones I control – things I'm already making sure are clean and disinfected. The only thing I've touched with the left glove is possibly the packaging. The only other thing that could potentially be contaminated is the tip of my key if I used it to press any buttons.
Back at the car, I'm getting a disinfectant wipe and wiping down my catering bag. If I had to use my key to push buttons, I'm wiping that down for good measure. Then I'll remove the gloves properly, making sure not to touch the external surface of the glove with my bare hands. I follow the procedure in this video.
There is nothing magic about a glove
The very presence of a glove isn't going to keep you safe. The glove by itself is not going to destroy any virus it comes in contact with. Simply wearing gloves gives you no more protection than not wearing them. In fact, too often people get a false sense of security with the gloves and let their guard down. Recless use of gloves could pose a greater risk than not wearing them at all.
If you recognize gloves for what they can do, and are conscious about the surfaces you are coming in contact with, gloves can be a useful tool.
Gloves alone won't keep you safe. That is your job.