DEAR SOMEONE ELSE’S MOM: I have sometimes been in public bathrooms at restaurants, theatres, etc., and seen people come out of their stall and walk out without washing their hands. I find this disgusting at the best of times, but with the heightened attention during the COVID-19 virus outbreak, I am more concerned than offended.
What can be done in a situation like this? --- A WORRIED READER
DEAR WORRIED READER: This is a real concern at any time, and an issue that’s not easily solved, particularly when there’s a lot of fear, uncertainty, misinformation, and authorities on all levels are instituting measures they feel are in the best interest for the general population.
I brought your specific concern to a very good friend, who is an experienced public health professional. He believes you have a valid concern, as it’s not yet known if the virus can be transmitted by contact with stool or urine. What is known at the time I’m writing this is that the main route of transmission is through sneezing and coughing, but it’s unclear if it can be spread through other forms of contact, or picked up from objects like faucets, doorknobs, and countertops.
Owners of public restrooms can’t force non-employees to properly wash their hands after going to the bathroom. But what should help is if public health agencies continue to strongly promote awareness in the community about always thoroughly washing your hands after a bathroom visit and frequently throughout the day. It’s a time-proven and simple measure to help curtail the spread of many contagious diseases, and is especially critical during a pandemic.
My friend also urges the reminder that with COVID-19, covering your coughs and sneezes, getting tested if you’re feeling ill, and following all guidelines established by public health authorities are all vitally important.
I wish you and all my readers and their loved ones good health.