STEER CLEAR OF HANDRAILS, WATER FOUNTAINS, AND BUSINESS CARDS AFTER LOCKDOWN ORDERS ARE LIFTED.
It’s no surprise that we should all expect life after quarantine to look a lot different than it did prior to the pandemic. And as people around the country start returning to work, riding public transportation, and attending group events, it’s critical to be more cautious than ever about our interactions with the people, places, and things we encounter while out in public. After all, whether or not we take certain safety precautions can be the difference between contracting COVID-19 or remaining healthy. To help increase your chances of finding yourself in the latter category, we asked experts to identify the specific things you should avoid touching after reopening gets underway.
1 – Escalator handrails
Have you ever thought about how, when, or if the rotating railings on escalators get disinfected? Given that the moving stair machines they are attached to are most often found in public places that see high levels of foot traffic, it’s safe to say they aren’t the most sanitary places one could choose to rest their hands on.
“[When] a person coughs or sneezes their viral particles onto their hands, and/or the railings, those particles get transferred to the next person,” says Tsippora Shainhouse, MD, a pediatric dermatologist in Beverly Hills, California. And obviously the spread doesn’t stop there.
2 – Water fountains
“Because many people touch the spout with either their lips or the mouth of their reusable water bottles, it is a direct way of touching someone else’s saliva and transmitting infection,” says Shainhouse. However, it’s not only the spout you have to worry about.
“Touching the handle is like touching all of the dirty hands that touched the handle right before you,” Shainhouse says. “Those hands might have wiped a nose or mouth before touching the handle, potentially spreading viruses.” To be safe, carry your own water bottle and avoid refilling it at public fountains.
3 – Gym equipment
According to Shainhouse, the equipment at your gym is another major breeding ground for bacteria and viruses.
“Holding the railings on any gym equipment before thoroughly wiping them down with antibacterial wipes puts you at risk of acquiring any of the germs that were on the hands of the people who used the equipment before you,” she says. “Since most people tend to touch their eyes, nose, mouth, and face—at least while wiping the sweat off during their cardio block—they are at risk of transferring germs.”
And since the same risk applies to the free weights at your gym, Shainhouse says, consider bringing some disinfecting wipes if you plan on visiting your gym after reopening.
4 – Poles or handles on public transportation
Subway poles and overhead handles on buses present a threat to public health because, according to a study published in The New England Journal of Medicine, the coronavirus can live on metal for up to three days. And while cities like New York are enforcing strict cleaning procedures for public transportation—it only takes a few passengers for them to become contaminated once again.
5 – Test products at makeup counters
The makeup counters in cosmetic or department stores have always played host to a slew of germs, but with coronavirus potentially nearby, those open lipstick and eyeshadow containers are more concerning than ever. “Sharing makeup, particularly ones that touch mucous membranes like your eyes and mouth, is an easy way to transmit viruses,” Shainhouse says. So, skip applying any testers, and maybe just go with your gut when it comes to cosmetic purchases for the time being.
6 – Business cards
Think twice about handing out, or accepting, business cards from here on out. As we know, the coronavirus can survive on paper for up to three hours, and business cards can potentially transfer the virus to any hands or personal objects they come in contact with. And, let’s be honest, are business cards even necessary anymore?
“We should not touch, accept, or give business cards,” says etiquette expert Maryanne Parker. “There are so many other ways for us to get connected.”
7 – A coworker’s computer
Gone are the days of rolling your chair over to your coworker’s desk to show them something, using their keyboard or mouse. Instead, try your best to “not physically touch anything that doesn’t belong to us, even with the intention to be helpful,” says Parker. Your office will also have to rethink shared laptops, desks, and other communal equipment upon reopening.