With the increase in vaccination rates around the world and the decline in coronavirus-related deaths, most people are convinced that the worst is in the rearview mirror. Yet while we are unlikely to need to go through a total lockdown again, the pandemic is far from over.
The stalemate between humanity and COVID-19 is demonstrated by the continued efforts of companies to implement and enforce a high health and safety standard. Given the reluctance of most businesses to spend money unless absolutely necessary, these upgrades indicate a belief that such measures will continue to be necessary for the foreseeable future.
For businesses manufacturing and selling personal protective equipment and physical distancing equipment, the writing on the wall means one word: profit. For example, Ins’TenT Industries, a company specializing in custom awnings, tents and signage, continues to deliver record sales figures as it works tirelessly to meet demand. The same goes for 3M, the makers of N95, Procter & Gamble, the makers of Clorox and companies with similar positions around the world.
However, many public health officials warn against over-reliance on outward-looking protective measures. Not only does the CDC label some of these efforts as hygiene theater, but they also warn of barriers and signs acting as surrogates for the most effective protection of all: full vaccination.
The need for more people to get vaccinated has grown in importance with the spread of a more contagious strain of coronavirus. Dubbed the Delta variant, people infected with it are much more likely to require hospitalization if they have not yet been fully immunized.
In countries where access to the vaccine is difficult or even non-existent, physical measures to prevent the spread of new variants are the best available option. However, in countries like the United States, where vaccines are now available to anyone 16 years of age or older, barriers and warnings should no longer serve as the first line of defense.
That said, mask warrants and physical distancing remain essential elements in the fight against COVID-19. The need for adequate barriers, markers and signage is especially critical in elementary schools, where the student body is not yet old enough to be vaccinated. In fact, the American Academy of Pediatrics recently issued a recommendation that all people inside schools should continue to wear masks for the school year 2021-2022, including those who have been fully vaccinated.
Industries where physical distancing materials are still needed include food services, retail, healthcare, tourism, and professional sports. For example, the planners of the Tokyo Olympics have taken extraordinary measures to prevent the spread of the virus, none of which depends on vaccination. Such efforts are due to the inconsistent availability of the virus among participating countries.
Assuming that a certain percentage of the population never receives the vaccine, new variants will continue to appear. This is because the unvaccinated portion of the population will act as a reservoir, with individuals acting as incubators. At this rate, achieving collective immunity will take years. All the more reason why companies see an advantage in investing in PPE and PDM.
As time goes on, businesses and individuals will need to be on the lookout for the aforementioned hygiene theater. At some point, the need for important health and safety measures will diminish, but manufacturers and sellers of PPE and PDM will continue to present themselves as essential. Consumers will have to think for themselves, and so will business owners and managers.
In the meantime, entities around the world continue to research all options to slow the spread of COVID-19. Reinstated mask warrants, heightened protective measures and even vaccination requirements for employees are all on the table for 2021 and beyond.
Interesting related article: “The Business of Health: An Overview Guide to Employee Health Coverage”