OPINION: Washing hands, social distancing key to preventing transmission of novel Coronavirus

by | Mar 11, 2020 | Opinion

Rachael Dyal, Op-ed Editor

As a student at Humber who is concerned about the novel coronavirus, I find it comforting to know there are steps we can take to prevent the possibility of catching the virus.

Sure, many of us may joke about COVID-19 or make memes about it.

Maybe you’ve even laughed at social-media posts making light of the disease.

And though I’d like to think that I’d be within the top tier if it came down to a survival of the fittest, even I can confess the coronavirus scares me.

I’ll even be so bold to admit that I sometimes avoid hugging my own mother after she’s come off the subway out of fear that she may have contracted the virus after riding the subway.

I acknowledge these thoughts are fairly irrational considering the TTC is doing its best to keep buses and subway cars clean, but I’d be lying if I said this isn’t an anxiety of mine.

However, what’s eased my dread, and what I argue should ease your distress, is the fact that there are preventative measures — corona-etiquette, if you will — students should follow to help stay clear of the virus.

Stefanie Santorsola, a registered nurse and health promotion coordinator at Humber College, offered some tips for how students could protect themselves on campus.

“The big thing is washing hands effectively — using soap and water for 20 seconds and making sure you’re getting all the aspects of the hand, mostly between the fingers,” she said.

Even if hands aren’t visibly soiled, people should use a hand sanitizer that has at least 60 per cent alcohol, Santorsola said.

As much as some of us would like to cough on people we don’t like, Santorsola said students should engage in respiratory-related etiquette as well.

“Coughing into your shoulder or elbow and then engaging in hand hygiene afterward is important,” she said.

However, there’s still that underlining anxiety about shaking someone’s hand.

Santorsola suggests avoiding physical contact altogether — including kissing on the cheek, which may transit germs — when greeting people.

She said using one’s words — for example, a simple hello — is sufficient and offers an alternative to the first bumps and elbow bumps that some officials have been encouraging as forms of greetings.

“Really, we don’t want mass hysteria. The transmission rate [of COVID-19] in Canada is still really low, but, again, hand hygiene is the biggest way to stop the spread of really any illness,” Santorsola said.

The federal government published a number of tips on its website that people can take to protect themselves and others from the virus.

These include staying home from work or school if you are feeling sick, avoiding “touching something with the virus on it, then touching your mouth, nose or eyes before washing your hands.”

This is all advice that’s easy to follow and beneficial to know.