Hand-Shaking May Become A Thing Of The Past After Coronavirus, Dr. Anthony Fauci Says

Dr. Anthony Fauci at a White House press conference.
Win McNamee / Getty Images

Hand-shaking may be no more after the coronavirus, America’s leading expert on infectious diseases says.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, a top official at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and a fixture at the daily White House briefings on the coronavirus, said on Wednesday that people may need to permanently change some habits after the outbreak of the virus has ended. In an interview with Scott Thurman shared on Twitter, the doctor said that the custom of shaking hands as a greeting is too dangerous to continue.

“As a society, just forget about shaking hands,” Fauci said. “We don’t need to shake hands. We’ve got to break that custom.”

“Because as a matter of fact, that is one of the major ways you can transmit a respiratory-borne illness.”

One of the first recommendations from health experts with the outbreak of the coronavirus was to end physical, hand-to-hand contact. They suggested that people could bump elbows or give an air high-five as a greeting, but noted that touching hands was one of the most common ways to spread the virus. As Business Insider noted, even lesser forms of hand contact can be significantly safer than shaking hands. A high-five transmits roughly half as much bacteria as a handshake, and a fist bump only has about 10 percent the transmission of a handshake.

Fauci said he hopes that the outbreak of the deadly virus helps people understand just how easily a pandemic can take place, and that the precaution against spreading it should become a permanent habit.

“I think what we’re going to have embedded and imprinted in us forever is the realization that something as catastrophic as what the world is experiencing now can happen,” he said.

Fauci noted that some of the social distancing measures, including remaining six feet away from others when possible, may need to be used more often as well.

Though it may be difficult for some to abandon a centuries-old social custom, Fauci also had some good news to deliver on Wednesday. As Politico reported, he and Vice President Mike Pence said during a call with lawmakers that conditions in some of the worst hotspots of viral outbreaks appear to be improving, indicating that intensive social distancing protocols may be paying off.

Fauci added that there could soon be more guidance on just how and when social distancing measures could be eased in some places, though health experts have said that some measures may need to remain in place until a vaccine is created in roughly 12 to 18 months.