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How to safely navigate public restrooms during the pandemic

Is it safe to use a public restroom, or could you pick up COVID-19 there?

KATY, Texas – In the sophisticated world of physics, there’s a well-studied topic called “the toilet plume.”

By studying what happens when you flush, scientists determined a cloud of aerosols float in the air almost three feet.

Plus, studies have found evidence of coronavirus in fecal matter.

So, do public restrooms pose a serious threat of infection?

Infectious disease Dr. Linda Yancey with Memorial Hermann in Katy said viral droplets may stay in the air or land on surfaces in the bathroom.

Which means, the risk exists.

However, there’s no real evidence of transmission from public restrooms. Therefore, Yancey said the best thing to do is know how to keep yourself safe while using the bathroom.

Don’t waste time!

“Flush the toilet, leave the stall immediately. You don’t want to be in there buckling your belt or putting things in your purse so, flush and leave, do all that business once you get out or before you flush the toilet,” Yancey said.

Be careful of how many high-touch surfaces you grab

  • Use a paper towel to touch doorknobs and faucets.
  • Wash your hands for at least twenty seconds.
  • Wear a mask the entire time you’re in there.

“Once you use the bathroom and come out and wash your hands, they’re nice and clean, you’ve done your Happy Birthday [song] twice with soap and water, then dry your hands, use the towel to turn off the taps,” Yancey said. “Keep that towel in your hand, use that to open the door as you’re leaving and then discard that towel once you leave the restroom. So, once you wash your hands, never touch anything without the barrier there.”

Another expert puts it very plainly and said, “A public restroom is a petri dish, so, the best advice is the same as when we were kids-- ‘Everyone go to the bathroom before we get in the car!‘”