Jane, I really appreciate your response, because it highlights exactly how we should be using information right now.

You are the expert on how your daily activities intersect with potential vectors of infection. You’re the only one who can properly assess your personal risk, and the risk you pose to others. I would never tell someone they shouldn’t wipe down groceries — only that, in most cases, it isn’t necessary. In your case, it makes sense that you would want to do it. I like your thinking — it’s logical, well-considered, and considerate of others.

— — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — —

To others who might read this response:

I did not mention the disinfecting of groceries in order to ridicule anyone. If wiping down groceries makes you feel safer, or if it makes sense in the context of your specific daily routine — do it.

But, cognitive load also matters, and the more stuff we stack up to tell ourselves to do, the more likely we are to forget something.

Folks might think that you can’t be too careful, and often, that’s correct. There is a danger, though, in focusing so much energy on protective measures that don’t have a high return on effort, that we neglect the behaviors that have the most impact.

We want to keep our behaviors simple and infinitely repeatable, so we can keep them going, day after day, for as long as we have to.

Impeccable hand-hygiene, for instance, will prevent a lot more infection than just sanitizing surfaces (if you only do one of those things). Likewise, wearing a mask inside is way more important than wearing a mask outside.

Often, people feel overwhelmed and experience a lack of clarity about how to prioritize their behaviors. The goal is to get nearly everyone to do the most important things — wash their hands, not touch their face, wear a mask, don’t congregate indoors. That will prevent the bulk of infection.

(A thought that keeps me up at night is the worry that there are people who are so confused about how to protect themselves that they think going back to church is fine, while they’re wiping their cereal boxes with Clorox.)

A.M. Carter earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Florida. She writes about philosophy, science, politics and current events.

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