Staying safe using a public restroom during the pandemic

Staying safe using a public restroom during the pandemic

COVID-19 has limited outside activities for many of us, but you can’t stay indoors all the time. And if you do venture outside for work, grocery shopping or just to get some fresh air, there will come a time when nature calls, and you go looking for a public restroom.

Which raises the question, just what are the safety protocols for using a public bathroom?

According to a biocontainment expert at The Johns Hopkins Hospital, the basic three pillars of protection that experts have been stressing throughout the pandemic extend to the restroom: hand hygiene, physical distancing and masking.

While it’s possible to contract COVID-19 by touching a contaminated surface, then touching your mouth, nose or eyes, this is not the main mode of transmission — close person-to-person exposure is. Still, it’s best to make as little contact as possible with surfaces other people have touched.

After washing your hands for at least 20 seconds, use a different paper towel to open the door, then toss it in the trash. And avoid using hand dryers as they may blow around aerosolized particles that are politely known as toilet plume.

The risk of contracting the virus from such particles is negligible, but wearing a mask is still a good idea. And close the toilet lid before you flush.

Physical distancing may be tricky, but if there are more people in the restroom than there are stalls, wait outside. And stand 6 feet apart from others in line.

Everyone’s level of perceived risk and feeling safe is different, but adhering to the three pillars of safety is the best place to start. After all, if everyone slacks off, we’re likely headed back to quarantine.

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