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I just got a can of Coke out of the beverage vending machine in our break room at work.

It just occurred to me that vending machines may be an excellent source of spreading the Coronavirus in the workplace because nobody I know has been washing their hands after using it and as far as I know our custodian is not wiping down the vending machines with disinfectant every day. Moreover, I think the coin return box and coin return lever would likely contain the highest concentration of the Coronavirus.

Should all vending machines in the workplace be turned off until the Coronavirus outbreak is over?

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    You could protect yourself by carrying a bottle of hand sanitizer, and cleaning your hands immediately after using the machine. – Patricia Shanahan Mar 17 at 16:31
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    ...when hand sanitizer, eventually, becomes available again. Remember to chose the right one that works against a virus and is not limited to bacteria. – Bernhard Döbler Mar 17 at 16:40
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    Please read: workplace.stackexchange.com/help/dont-ask - this question is opinion-based as written. – EJoshuaS - Reinstate Monica Mar 17 at 16:41
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    "It just occurred to me..." and other things on your post read a bit speculative, and even perhaps a bit paranoid. Besides, are you in a position to turn off the machines? This is something your building/facilities should decide on, as well as your local laws and statements regarding health and covid19. – DarkCygnus Mar 17 at 16:43
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    Did you disinfect the lift buttons? Did you wipe the stairs handrail? – Solar Mike Mar 17 at 16:47
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Moreso than any other surface?

Numerous surfaces are touched by multiple people every day. That is why offices are being closed and people told to work remotely. Not sure what makes the vending machine particularly special compared to the office kitchen or the bathroom (as let's be honest, handwashing is not always happening there either) or the light switch.

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    Well, there is a difference: vending machines could be turned off/avoided while bathrooms probably not. One can avoid touching everything nonessential and touch everything essential. – guest Mar 17 at 16:56
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    But then anyone thirsty has to get their drinks elsewhere. Like go to a shop full of people, take a can from the shelves which is just as likely infected. Plus it has been touched by other customers. – gnasher729 Mar 18 at 8:00
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Turning off the machine won't stop the spread of the coronavirus.

Whether the machine is on or off, anything that is present on the machine will be affected by the machine's state. I know this is obvious, but it's worthwhile stating because if you were to turn it off right now and there were any viruses on it, they would still be there when you turned it back on. But what about viruses that get added to it during the outbreak. Sure they might not be put there, but invariably someone will try to use it and there is still a risk of something ending up on it. A smaller chance, but a chance never the less.

To prevent it as a point of contact you would have to remove the machine from the area that people can touch it (isolate it under a tarp perhaps?) which may work, but will likely be rather difficult to do logistically.

OR, what would be far more effective in my opinion, is to leave it there, leave it running and add a hand sanitizer station near it. And, ask the janitorial staff to wipe it down. This way, anyone that uses it during the day has the option to clean themselves, the machine stays relatively safer by the janitor, and you keep your snacks handy.

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  • I liked the idea of putting a tarp over the vending machines. I don't know if custodians would want the added task of wiping down all the vending machines each day unless they were paid more, also they may not want to do this because it would increase their chances of picking up the Coronavirus. – user255577 Mar 17 at 23:23
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    Gloves, a spritz and a wipe? Shouldnt take more than a few seconds and it's no more risky than cleaning any other surface I would say – Diesel Mar 17 at 23:33
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    but it's worthwhile stating because if you were to turn it off right now and there were any viruses on it, they would still be there when you turned it back on. Viruses don't live forever. Studies for this virus put its longevity on surfaces in terms of days (which is quite long for a virus), nowhere near a potential months-long shutdown. – Azor Ahai -- he him Mar 18 at 0:09
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    Agreed, it would depend on the length of the shut down. Some places may shut down for a few days, some for longer. As the rest of the answer implies, while it is a surface in a room, it's a risk – Diesel Mar 18 at 0:13

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