A Swiss cheese approach to pandemic safety


Photo credit should read CHARLY TRIBALLEAU/AFP via Getty Images

Lately, I’ve been thinking about pandemic safety and Swiss cheese. It’s an uninspiring cheese, but it’s a good visual metaphor for a layered approach to infection control.

This ‘Swiss Cheese Model’ has been around since at least the 1990’s, when it was proposed as a way of thinking about how accidents happen. During the pandemic, it’s been pressed into a different kind of service, used to visualize disease prevention instead of accidents.

In a pandemic as widespread as this one, no single action can keep a person from getting sick. There will always be flaws (holes) in any approach. Washing your hands won’t keep you from breathing in the virus — and wearing a cloth mask won’t completely protect you if you’re stuck in a stuffy room with…

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