Dr. Fauci Says He Doesn't Think Americans Should Ever Shake Hands Again to Prevent Spread of Coronavirus

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the National Institute of Allergies and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) director, said Americans should never shake hands again, in order to prevent the spread of coronavirus and other diseases.

The leading infectious disease expert on President Donald Trump's coronavirus task force told the Wall Street Journal that an end to handshaking would be good for reducing future transmissions of the novel coronavirus and would also cut the number of influenza cases.

In a wide-ranging interview with The Journal podcast, the NIAID director hoped to see "light at the end of the tunnel" by the end of April.

Speaking about the eventual return to normal life, Dr. Fauci said: "When you gradually come back, you don't jump into it with both feet. You say what are the things you could still do and still approach normal. One of them is absolute compulsive hand washing. The other is you don't ever shake anybody's hands."

He also suggested that people might want to wear "cloth face protection" if they could not avoid being within six feet of others as life starts its return to normal.

Dr. Anthony Fauci at Zika Meeting
Dr. Anthony Fauci discusses the Zika virus during remarks before the Economic Club of Washington on January 29, 2016 in Washington, DC. Win McNamee/Getty Images

When the host Kate Linebaugh pointed out that Fauci and others on the coronavirus task force did not stand six feet apart at pandemic briefings, the disease expert said: "Don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good here. The task force group is a little bit different.

"Since we're around the president... it's got to be clear that we're not endangering him. So I get tested frequently and I get my temperature taken eight, nine times a day. Every time you go into a different room in the White House you get your temperature taken.

"So I don't think you should judge the use or not of masks and physical separation what you see with the task force for the rest of the country, it really is different."

Asked to paint a picture of what life may look like once the worst of the novel coronavirus has passed, Dr. Fauci said he could see the country phasing back to normality by doing such things as limiting the number of people who can be at a restaurant or event at any one time.

"But can I as a resident of New York City hug my 77-year-old mother with vulnerable respiratory systems?" Linebaugh asked.

"I mean I don't think you should do that now. You're in New York City. You're in a very vulnerable situation in regard to infection," Fauci replied.

"But when this goes down, and gets down to almost zero, when we get to that, then I think what's important... there is an antibody test that will be widely distributed pretty soon, in the next few weeks, that will allow you to know whether or not you've actually been infected."

He said: "I can imagine a situation where you take an antibody test and you are absolutely positive that you were infected and you did well, then you could hug the heck out of your grandmother and not worry about it."

Later in the podcast, Trump's top coronavirus doctor said: "I don't think we're ever going to get back to free-flying lack of attention to what transmissibility of infections are. I think that people are going to be careful.

"I don't think we should ever shake hands ever again, to be honest with you. Not only would it be good to prevent coronavirus disease, it probably would decrease instances of influenza dramatically in this country."

Newsweek has contacted the NIAID for further comment and will update with any response.

President Trump revealed at the end of last month that social distancing guidelines would be extended until April 30. He also warned that he expected the novel coronavirus death toll to peak in a couple of weeks.

"The peak for death rates is likely to hit in two weeks," Trump said on March 29. "Nothing would be worse than declaring victory before victory is won."

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told Fox Business on Tuesday that he hoped the coronavirus shutdown would not go on for more than eight weeks, adding that the president was looking at how parts of the economy could be reopened.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Advice on Using Face Coverings to Slow Spread of COVID-19

  • CDC recommends wearing a cloth face covering in public where social distancing measures are difficult to maintain.
  • A simple cloth face covering can help slow the spread of the virus by those infected and by those who do not exhibit symptoms.
  • Cloth face coverings can be fashioned from household items. Guides are offered by the CDC. (https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prevent-getting-sick/diy-cloth-face-coverings.html)
  • Cloth face coverings should be washed regularly. A washing machine will suffice.
  • Practice safe removal of face coverings by not touching eyes, nose, and mouth, and wash hands immediately after removing the covering.

World Health Organization advice for avoiding spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19)

Hygiene advice

  • Clean hands frequently with soap and water, or alcohol-based hand rub.
  • Wash hands after coughing or sneezing; when caring for the sick; before, during and after food preparation; before eating; after using the toilet; when hands are visibly dirty; and after handling animals or waste.
  • Maintain at least 1 meter (3 feet) distance from anyone who is coughing or sneezing.
  • Avoid touching your hands, nose and mouth. Do not spit in public.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or bent elbow when coughing or sneezing. Discard the tissue immediately and clean your hands.

Medical advice

  • Avoid close contact with others if you have any symptoms.
  • Stay at home if you feel unwell, even with mild symptoms such as headache and runny nose, to avoid potential spread of the disease to medical facilities and other people.
  • If you develop serious symptoms (fever, cough, difficulty breathing) seek medical care early and contact local health authorities in advance.
  • Note any recent contact with others and travel details to provide to authorities who can trace and prevent spread of the disease.
  • Stay up to date on COVID-19 developments issued by health authorities and follow their guidance.

Mask and glove usage

  • Healthy individuals only need to wear a mask if taking care of a sick person.
  • Wear a mask if you are coughing or sneezing.
  • Masks are effective when used in combination with frequent hand cleaning.
  • Do not touch the mask while wearing it. Clean hands if you touch the mask.
  • Learn how to properly put on, remove and dispose of masks. Clean hands after disposing of the mask.
  • Do not reuse single-use masks.
  • Regularly washing bare hands is more effective against catching COVID-19 than wearing rubber gloves.
  • The COVID-19 virus can still be picked up on rubber gloves and transmitted by touching your face.