Will handshakes be a thing of the past when the pandemic is over?


SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — Ever since COVID-19 came to the U.S., people have been told by health organizations to wash your hands, wear a mask, and social distance.

That social distancing includes avoiding shaking hands when greeting someone.

But will the handshake become a thing of the past once America is no longer worried about the virus?

Neal DeWoody is an infection prevention specialist at Cox South in Springfield.

“Hands, in particular, we use them for everything that we do,” DeWoody said. “We touch everything with our hands and then we touch our face, we touch our mouth and that transmits into what we call a portal of entry. That can cause any kind of infection from those viruses or bacteria that are on your hands.”

But once COVID-19 is in the rearview, will some people lose the customary greeting alltogether?

Dr. Marnie Watson is an assistant professor of anthropology at Missouri State Univeristy.

“I absolutely think some people will and I think some people haven’t stopped shaking hands,” Watson said.

She says the handshake actually is a relatively new concept for a greeting.

“It doesn’t really come into everyday practice really until about the 1600s,” Watson said. “Before that, people were bowing, they were curtseying, they were tipping their hats.”

She says other cultures with different greetings are also facing a similar dilemma when meeting new people.

“People all around the world are struggling with this, like the French,” Watson said. “Their health minister said in February ‘no cheek kissing.'”

“I suspect the awareness is a lot higher now of the importance of hand hygiene,” DeWoody said.

“New things will emerge if we give up on handshakes,” Watson said. “Humans, when we greet each other, we want something. Human culture always changes. It’s always changing so it’s not a crisis that things are changing again but also, people are going to resist change.”

In several interviews, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Dr. Anthony Fauci has stated that he recommends people not shake hands even after the COVID-19 virus is not a concern any longer.

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