Instead of Banning Handshakes Because of Coronavirus, Wash Your Damn Hands

For no medical reason at all, business leaders have taken to banishing regular human contact.
Hannah Smothers
Brooklyn, US
February 13, 2020, 4:37pm
Businesses have needlessly banned handshakes amid coronavirus outbreak
Robert Decelis Ltd via Getty

Uncertainty can be paralyzing; in the face of the unknown, some freeze, while others—born leaders—are quickly moved to action. As panic around coronavirus, now officially known as Covid-19, swells, public health experts around the globe have thoughtfully and dutifully given instructions on how people can remain healthy, while they figure out what the virus is, and how to treat and stop it. Meanwhile, several business leaders—with no medical expertise to speak of—have seemingly taken matters into their own hands, literally speaking.


As Recode reported Thursday morning, the doors of Andreessen Horowitz, a big-time Silicon Valley firm with investments in Facebook, Airbnb, and Slack, currently bear a warning sign: “Due to the Coronavirus, No Handshakes Please. Thank you.” While four of the 14 confirmed American cases of Covid-19 have been in Northern California, avoiding basic human contact with asymptomatic people is not currently among the CDC’s prevention guidelines.

Andreessen Horowitz isn’t alone in its handshake ban. Before the event was ultimately canceled, the organizers of the Mobile World Congress—an annual gathering of mobile tech companies in Barcelona—recommended attendees avoid handshakes. And in one city in Canada, at least two minor-league soccer teams decided to ban post-game handshakes, over concerns about Covid-19. (Seven virus cases have been confirmed in Canada, but none in Alberta, where these two teams are based.)

Handshake bans aren’t a new idea; as a public health professor recently told the Verge, “they seem to pop up every time there is a big outbreak of a new disease.” While fist-bumps (fun!) or elbow taps (which have come to be known, hopefully jokingly, as the “coronavirus handshake”) may spread fewer germs than a lengthy handshake, the gesture is only as germ-y as the hands that perform it. If everyone would simply wash their freakin’ hands, there’d be no need for handshake bans. If you fist-bump, let it be because you’re extremely cool, not because you’re afraid of germs.

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