One in Four People Still Don’t Wash Their Hands

Throughout the pandemic, we have been told that one of the best ways to protect ourselves from becoming ill is by frequently washing our hands. The good news is that many of us have taken that to heart. Americans are washing our hands more than we were before. But, some people still aren’t washing their hands at key times.

According to a new report from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, one in four Americans aren’t washing their hands frequently enough. The times people were most likely to not wash their hands were after sneezing, coughing or blowing their nose and before eating. The people least likely to wash their hands were young adults and men. Older adults and women were more likely to wash their hands. In regular times, that’s how it is as well — older people and women wash their hands more than younger people and men. Additionally, people of color are more likely to wash their hands than white people.

Right now, people are 2.7 times more likely than they used to be to wash their hands after coughing, sneezing or blowing their nose. They are twice as likely to wash their hands before a meal in a restaurant. And they are 1.7 times more likely to wash up before eating at home.

Despite these increases, however,” the CDC wrote in the report, “fewer than 75 percent of respondents reported remembering to wash their hands after having respiratory symptoms, before eating in a restaurant and before eating at home.”

The report is based on people reporting their own actions. Surveys are never entirely reliable. The CDC compared last year’s survey to this year’s. Last year 63 percent of people washed their hands before eating at home; this year, 74 percent do. Last year 55 percent of people washed their hands before eating in restaurants; now, 70 percent do. Last year 53 percent of people said they washed their hands after coughing, sneezing or blowing their nose; now, 71 percent said they do.

Those numbers are noticeable improvements, but experts say we need more. And the percentages vary by group. For instance, 76 percent of women wash their hands after coughing, sneezing or blowing their nose, only 65 percent of men do. The experts said that they aren’t sure if more PSAs, signs or other methods are needed, but people need more messages to remind them to wash their hands and help everyone stay safe.

New research has found that COVID-19 can live on skin for up to nine hours. This underscores how important handwashing is. In comparison, the flu can only live on skin for two hours. That means if you went out to a store in the morning, you might still have live COVID-19 on your hands at dinner time. Handwashing is more important during the pandemic than ever. It protects you and anyone who may come in contact with something you touch.

Banner Image: National Cancer Institute via Unsplash
October 12, 2020
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