Now that Thanksgiving’s within reach, is it safe to shake hands?

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This weekend, people across the country will gather with family and friends, many for the first time in ages. But how does one greet others without breaking pandemic protocol?

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As Minister Frank McGee and his dog Grundy demonstrated in 1963, when this photograph was taken by star photographer Frank Tesky, touch—whether it’s a handshake or a hug—is how many of us say hello. It is a difficult habit to break. But will shaking hands be a thing of the past?

“Hand-to-hand contact is unlikely to be a major risk [for COVID transmission],” says Colin Furness, an infection control epidemiologist at the University of Toronto, “but shaking your hand to get close to someone is an issue if the people involved are not wearing high-quality masks that fit properly.”


Still, Furness admitted that he would like to see an end to the handshake. “Fairly speaking,” he says, “hands are gross. Touch may not make much sense for COVID, but it almost certainly does for other serious viruses. The second cause is bacterial contamination. Most bacteria are harmless or are beneficial. Our body is covered with bacteria inside and out. But some variants associated with the ‘two F’s’ (food and feces) are very harmful. Our hands can become dangerously dirty between the kitchen and the bathroom.”

Even though people have learned to wash their hands frequently over the past 18 months, Furness says this is not enough. After conducting extensive research on the hand-hygiene behavior of hospital patients, staff, and visitors, they found that “the rate of hand-washing in the bathroom was the same in all three groups: 30%. That’s low.

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“I’m not a germaphobe,” he says, “but I’m a real fan of hand sanitizer. If we shake hands less, we’ll definitely need less of it. And we’ll get sick less.”

During the pandemic, public figures have attempted to normalize elbow bumps, heel taps and the like. Furnace is also ready to explore new ways to say hello and goodbye. “The handshake is a deeply embedded social ritual,” he says, “but it is certainly not universal.” For example, I admire the Asian slight bow. A small change, like pore bumping, would be great too. ”

In one epidemiologist’s perfect world, the social prohibition on shaking hands will continue indefinitely, though Furness isn’t sure what might eventually replace them: “Maybe people who are younger and cooler than me can invent alternatives.” can.”

When considering this photo of McGee and Grundy, Furness cautioned, “COVID-19 is unusually adaptable for different species, which makes it dangerous. That said, pet transmission doesn’t seem common at all. In this photo, the main risk is bacterial contamination that the rover may have recently stepped on. In other words, someone gives McGee hand sanitizer.

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