Photo: Claudio Schwarz/Unsplash

This third “Letter From Lockdown” is about something you really should start doing today. Most of us have seen televised hand washing demonstrations – wetting the hands, lathering up, cleaning the front and back of hands thoroughly, between fingers and rubbing the nails into the palm, rubbing soap and water around and then rinsing — all while silently singing Happy Birthday twice (twenty seconds).

In some demonstrations, people turn off the faucet with one of their hands – possibly reinfecting themselves. DON’T DO THAT!!

You can use your covered elbow on handle faucets and a thick paper towel on those annoying ones you have to turn. Don’t do what one demonstrator did:  After washing and drying his hands with a paper towel, he wiped the faucet, tossed the paper towel into his other clean hand, and then into the bin. DON’T DO THAT!  After turning the faucet off with a paper towel, get the towel right into the bin.

If there’s a chance that you might have been infected, wash again.

When you use a public restroom, don’t touch the toilet flusher or door handle with your hand. Have another folded paper towel in your pocket for that, use folded toilet paper or a foot to flush (if you’re agile and can lean against the side – not the door).  If need be, use the end of a shirt or coat to open the cubicle and later the exit door. The same applies to locking and unlocking a cubicle door.  None of these things are perfect, but they’re better than using your hands.

I’ve been taking such measures for a long time. A nurse recently wrote to say she does the same and hasn’t been sick for years. In the past, you might have gotten a few looks. Not likely now. Besides, that shouldn’t matter. We’re in a pandemic!

Use a knuckle if you must push an elevator button and then do not touch your face before washing your hands thoroughly. If you use a public stair bannister, wash your hands immediately afterward. If that’s not possible, use hand sanitizer. If you feel awkward about it, share the sanitizer. I bet you’ll have some takers!

Regularly clean the area where you work as Dr. Sanjay Gupta recommends.  Have sanitizer gel at your work desk.  If you can’t find any, there are recipes online, including on the link in this paragraph.

If someone is or could be sick in your house, use some of the same hygiene processes above to prevent the spread of infection.  Keep the faucets disinfected and anything that will be handled by family members. Wash your hands after doing so even if you wore gloves. Use separate towels.

After a while, steps like these become second nature.  As we learn more about COVID-19 or things change, including the virus itself, different or additional measures may be needed. These are a good, strong start.

Be safe. Be well. Kathleen


  • Kathleen Kelley Reardon

    Professor Emerita, University of Southern California Marshall School/Preventive Medicine Research. Author of THE SECRET HANDSHAKE, SHADOW CAMPUS and DAMNED IF SHE DOES

    Professor Emerita, USC Marshall School of Business with a joint position in preventive medicine, Kathleen is a Phi Beta Kappa, Phi Kappa Phi, Mortar Board and a member of the International Women's Forum (IWF).  She was a featured blogger at Huffpo from 2005 to 2016 and for Big Think. She is the author of numerous articles, including The Harvard Business Review classic, "The Memo Every Woman Keeps in Her Desk,"  and "Courage as a Skill."  She has published ten nonfiction books on communication, persuasion, negotiation, gender issues and politics in organizations, including bestsellers THE SECRET HANDSHAKE and IT'S ALL POLITICS.  She has consulted extensively for organizations and was visiting professor at Stanford University and Distinguished Research Scholar at The Irish Management Institute.  She has turned her hand to fiction as well.  Her debut novel, SHADOW CAMPUS, captures the behind-the-scenes culture of a university where moral turpitude is common and a young woman's tenure, her relationship with an estranged brother, and her life hang in the balance. Forbes described it as a "fast-paced" and "masterful debut." The sequel, DAMNED IF SHE DOES (2020), a NYC-based crime mystery, was described by Kirkus Reviews as "informed and searing" and a "page-turning success." Kathleen is originator and co-founder of The First Star Academies overcoming obstacles and preparing foster children to attend college. She received the University of Connecticut Alumni Humanitarian of the Year Award in 2013. Kathleen lives in Ireland where she writes and is an artist in watercolor and oils.  She developed an art website for people with Parkinson's disease at Her political writing and other art is at and at a Facebook page, Kathleen Kelley Reardon.