By: Mike Anderson
York Region’s Medical Officer of Health Dr. Karim Kurji wants us to stop greeting people by shaking their hands. Instead, he says we should develop other ways of greeting that don’t involve touch.
“If I were infected with coronavirus and we shake hands, I may pass it on to you,” Dr. Kurji says.
“So we are advocating that people move away from shaking hands to using other forms of greeting. I think that’s sensible because the more of these encounters we have, the more likely we are to be transmitting disease amongst ourselves.”
While it can be awkward to refuse to shake someone’s hand, he says touching the palm of someone’s unwashed hand means that you should immediately wash your hands — so save yourself a trip to the washroom.
While some people have resorted to fist-pumps or touching elbows, he says its best to avoid any form of touching — kissing someone’s cheek is a definite no-no.
Dr. Kurji advocates frequent hand washing with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer – making sure to wash in-between the fingers, fingernails and wrists. And, keep you distance — at least a metre away — from anyone exhibiting flu-like symptoms.
While some health officials are calling on people to prepare for a possible COVID-19 pandemic by stockpiling 14-days of groceries, prescription medications and other medical supplies, like masks and hand sanitizers, Dr. Kurji is advocating for a more measured approach.
“You should be able to support yourself for 72-hours,” he says. “That’s been the usual message for any emergency. And, I think that that’s probably reasonable.”
He also says residents should not wear masks unless they are sick, as the mask is primarily designed to prevent the spread of droplets to other people.
But, according to Dr. Kurji, it may not protect you from infection, because droplets can land on your hands and if you touch your eyes, nose or mouth while adjusting the mask you will infect yourself. He says most people have not received training on how to put on or remove a mask without touching their face.
“If you wear a mask, you are probably going to be touching those areas more frequently than without wearing a mask,” Dr. Kurji says. “And, the mask should not be worn for great lengths of time. It has to be changed very frequently.”
“And also, if it doesn’t fit the person properly, then you’re letting things come coming from the side anyway. The most important thing is that we don’t have the virus circulating here. So what are we protecting ourselves from?”
With some people are purchasing up to 300 masks at a time, Dr. Kurji says it’s time to stop hoarding. He says it’s creating a shortage of supply for medical staff and first responders.
For that latest information on COVID-19, including tips on protecting yourself, please visit York Region Public Health.
For tips on washing your hands correctly watch this video from the World Health Organization (WHO)
And for instructions on how to remove a mask without contaminating yourself watch this video from WHO