Wearing Gloves in Casinos Can Lead to False Sense of Security

Posted on: June 5, 2020, 08:17h. 

Last updated on: June 5, 2020, 11:07h.

Now that many Las Vegas gaming properties are reopened with multiple health safeguards in place, players might put on face masks to help protect against the spread of COVID-19. Dealers and other workers are likely wearing facial coverings, too.

gloves and COVID-19
USC Professor Paula Cannon, pictured in her lab, cautions against relying on gloves to prevent the spread of COVID-19. (Image: USC)

But what about gloves? Should they be worn?

They are certainly useful if workers are using chemicals when cleaning rooms, or, kitchen employees are involved in food preparation and need to mitigate the transmission of foodborne illnesses. But those risks are different from COVID-19.

In fact, two national experts question the wisdom of wearing gloves to prevent the spread of the virus.

“The idea of wearing gloves to protect a member of the public is flawed,” Paula Cannon, a professor of molecular microbiology and immunology at USC’s Keck School of Medicine, told Casino.org. “When people put on gloves, the concern I have is it’s a little bit of a false sense of security, because a glove should be considered, in this case, just an extra layer of skin.”

There is “nothing magical about a glove,” she said. “They don’t kill viruses, for example.”

If someone is wearing gloves, that person would touch the same surfaces, such as his or her nose or mouth, that hands would touch if the gloves were not on, Cannon explained. So instead of transmitting the virus by your hands, you do so with the gloves.

“Unless you are changing your gloves frequently, you are probably much less likely to wash the glove, use the hand sanitizer on the glove, than you would be if it were your hands,” Cannon added. “It doesn’t really add any protection and it can lull people into a false sense of security.”

In reality, getting a virus on your hands is not dangerous, according to Cannon. “Your hands are made of tough skin. The virus cannot get through the skin,” Cannon explained.

Manisha Juthani, an infectious disease physician at Yale School of Medicine, agrees.

“Gloves themselves are not protective, since you can’t get COVID-19 or other respiratory viruses through skin alone,” Juthani told Casino.org.

She confirmed there are some limited benefits associated with gloves. “If they help remind you to not rub your nose or eyes or put your fingers in your mouth before washing your hands, they can be a useful tool,” Juthani said.

She also points out they might make casino visitors feel more comfortable, “but that is more from the appearance of them rather than from the actual benefit.”

Handwashing is Critical

Both professors stress it is critical to wash hands or put on hand sanitizer frequently when in casinos. Similar recommendations come from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

For those wearing gloves over the hands, washing the outer layer of gloves or applying hand sanitizer to the gloves very frequently “gets old very quickly. People get careless,” Cannon warned.

“I would hope the casinos have lots of hand sanitizer all over the place, so the people can frequently do that if they don’t want to go into a restroom and actually wash their hands,” Cannon said.

Workers on casino floors, such as at tables, need to apply hand sanitizer frequently, too, and gloves may not be the best approach.

I would rather see an employee at a blackjack table with a huge … dispenser of Purell, and every time they touch chips or dice or anything, have them sanitize their hands with Purell,” Cannon said.

She recalls that the virus spreads by touching contaminated surfaces and then touching one’s hands, mouth, or eyes.

“The only way that the employee’s hands could spread the virus would be if the employee is touching something, even chips, or something that is contaminated with the virus,” Cannon said. “A glove is not going to stop that.”

Remember to Wear Masks

But masks are important to wear. They help to prevent an infected person from passing an infection onto another person, and provide some protection against a person getting sick from infected droplets. Also, it is hard to touch your nose or mouth if a mask is in the way.

Masks are a must in casinos,” Juthani said about precautions for people on gaming floors. “They are in enclosed spaces where people are close to each other and stay for prolonged periods of time.”

“I would consider casinos high-risk settings. I would look for measures allowing for physical distancing between tables or slot machines. I would try to go to tables where there are fewer players, even if you are wearing masks,” Juthani added.