Why did sneeze screens proliferate?

Sneeze screens have typically been used in food service, such as buffets, providing a protective barrier for people leaning over open food. Sneeze screens are made from cut to size Perspex ® or cut® clear plastic sheets to be fabricated at an angle above salad bars, bread bars, etc. It is really only since the coronavirus pandemic started that sneeze screens have proliferated throughout retail environments. However, the sneeze screens are no longer used to protect food but to protect staff and customers. They are placed at the checkout where customers and staff interact to prevent airborne droplets passing between the staff and customer, thus the sneeze screens are protecting both from each other.

 

The term sneeze screen is really a misnomer, because the idea of a person sneezing directly on another person is relatively rare, given normal hygiene and manners. The sneeze screens in use in supermarkets, petrol stations and pharmacies today provide a hygiene screen for more common transmissions of airborne droplets from coughing, and most normally, speaking. As we know from social distancing guidelines people are meant to stand at least 1.5m apart. At a checkout this is impossible and it is quite likely airborne droplets will pass between staff and customers just from the normal interaction. The cut to size clear Perspex ® or Plexiglas in the sneeze screen should catch these airborne droplets and stop them passing from one person to another.

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