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If you want to avoid the coronavirus, avoid this public place above all others

  • The coronavirus’ US toll is continuing to get worse, even as everyone’s attention has moved on to more acute tragedy that’s dominating attention in the country right now.
  • More than 1.8 million people have been infected with the coronavirus to-date in the US, and there have been more than 105,000 reported deaths here.
  • Experts say one particular public setting should probably especially be avoided by anyone worried about catching the coronavirus.

What extraordinary times we’re living in, when as recently as February most people had no inkling that a global pandemic was about to completely reshape daily life as we know it. The coronavirus’ US toll is something we’ve lived with for more than two months now, and even though the virus has now infected more than 1.8 million people in the US (and killed more than 105,000 as of the time of this writing, according to the latest stats from Johns Hopkins University), it’s now been supplanted by a tragedy of an altogether different kind.

We’re continuing to learn more news about the coronavirus each day, some of it promising and other details troubling, like so much else about the COVID-19 pandemic that has changed all of our lives. Meantime, as states are gradually opening back up again and economies are coming back to life around the country after weeks of lockdown, experts have been sharing notes of caution, warnings about the possibility of a new wave of coronavirus, and best practices about how we can all keep ourselves safe in public again.

Want to know the one place in public that experts say to avoid above all others if you want to keep yourself safe from coronavirus? Answer: Public restrooms, which Dr. Taylor Graber, a resident physician at UC San Diego says “are generally dirty places” and that people should “view each of the surfaces in the bathroom as a source of contamination.”

A 2019 study published in Antimicrobial Resistance & Infection Control, based on a sample of 55 public restrooms, found a disgustingly high amount of bacteria inside them (52 different species!). Moreover, that study found that unsafe levels of contamination were found on surfaces like hand dryers and door handles. “Our findings suggest that hand-drying facilities in public washrooms can act as reservoirs of drug-resistant bacteria,” the study concludes. “The importance of frequent cleaning and maintenance of public washrooms to promote safe hand hygiene practices for the public are emphasized.”

Other reasons that public restrooms are a cause for concern when it comes to the coronavirus:

The so-called “aerosolization” of fecal-related matter, especially when a toilet is flushed, may spread traces of the virus. If restrooms are poorly ventilated, that’s another problem, since lack of ventilation is known to support easier transmission of the virus. One suggestion is to close the toilet lid before flushing — and to find some place else to use the bathroom altogether.


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