Are the days of the handshake numbered?

Deborah Prescott | Daily Press Bill Wright and his daughter Stacey Randall demonstrate one way to greet each other, with an ‘air double high five’, instead of a handshake Wednesday afternoon during a break while walking on Lake Shore Drive in Escanaba.

ESCANABA — National Handshake Day is the last Thursday of June each year. The handshake is one of the oldest forms of greeting someone, but where does it stand during this time and age of the coronavirus pandemic?

Besides greeting someone, the handshake is known to be a good way to spread germs from person to person easily. Instead of shaking hands some people prefer the fist bump, or to touch elbows, as ways to greet each other. The fist bump is done with a closed hand where only the knuckles touch. It is usually not used in formal circumstances.

Public Health, Delta and Menominee Counties (PHDM) Health Officer Michael Snyder advises people to greet each other without shaking hands.

“Since COVID-19 is still present within our community, I would hope that residents that want to acknowledge National Handshake Day, greet one another in a way that doesn’t involve physical contact,” said Snyder. “As human beings we have a tendency to touch our face, and as we know, the coronavirus is acquired through inhalation or ingestion of the virus.”

Before COVID-19 shaking hands signified many things, including congratulating someone, meeting someone, parting, celebrating a victory/accepting a defeat, and gratitude. It can signify an action agreed upon, sealed with a hand shake.

The World Health Organization (WHO) advises to avoid shaking hands to protect everyone from COVID-19. Viruses can be transmitted through shaking hands and touching the eyes, nose, mouth. They advise to bow, wave, or nod as a greeting to others. The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) advise communities mitigate the transmission of the coronavirus before a vaccine becomes available by keeping a sense of responsibility and avoid handshakes.

Will we go back to shaking hands after the coronavirus passes?

“I think some will. Some people are still shaking hands during the pandemic,” Snyder said. “Other people will find an alternate means of greeting.”


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