The world will look very different once this outbreak is contained. If Dr. Anthony Fauci has anything to do with it, this new world would be one without handshakes.
Over the past few weeks, the outbreak of Coronavirus across the world has had people, and leaders especially, think about and change their behavior in unprecedented ways. If you were a big hugger before, it's likely that you think twice now before giving someone a big bear hug. If you left a public washroom without washing your hands, these days you probably never forget to scrub away for at least 20 seconds. As a community, we're all taking hygiene and personal space a little more seriously. Therefore, it would not be wrong to predict that some of our norms will change after this public health crisis is over. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the man leading the fight against COVID-19 as the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, envisions a world without handshakes, TIME Magazine reports.
On an episode of The Journal, a podcast about "money, business, and power," he told host Kate Linebaugh, "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." The world may never fully go back to what we considered "normal," of course, but shaking hands is one thing Dr. Fauci hopes never returns to our "business as usual" days. "I don’t think we should ever shake hands ever again, to be honest with you," he continued. "Not only would it be good to prevent Coronavirus disease; it probably would decrease instances of influenza dramatically in this country."
The handshake dates back all the way to Ancient Greece, where it was a symbol of peace to display that neither party was carrying a weapon. While the metaphor still exists today, there are perhaps newer - less touchy - ways to imply the same metaphor. It might take us a while to become comfortable with the idea of greeting someone in a professional setting with an elbow tap or fist bump, but it's probably for the better. On that same note, Dr. Fauci went on to discuss why social distancing measures were still a crucial part of the COVID-19 gameplan; they may not be going anywhere any time soon.
"It isn’t like a light switch on and off, it’s a gradual pulling back on certain of the restrictions and to try and get society a bit back to normal," the pandemic expert stated. "If you’re even going to consider a relaxation of this stringent physical separation, you absolutely have to have in place the capability. That means easy testing, widely available, the people committed to doing the identification, isolation and contact tracing, the facilities to isolate people." Last month, the White House conceded that the United States did not have enough testing kits to make sure everyone who needs one is able to access it.
Nonetheless, state and federal governments are rushing to ensure they are able to get those capabilities in place. Dr. Fauci concluded, "We hope that by the end of this 30-day extension that we will start to see the light at the end of the tunnel where we can say we’re pretty confident that we can gradually start approaching some degree of normality." Only a few pockets of populations across the country have seen a drop in the number of deaths since the first COVID-19 outbreak in their areas. Hopefully, with enough institutional support, the United States will soon see a decrease in the number of infected patients. Not shaking hands will be a small but integral part of ensuring that "light at the end of the tunnel."