Since Covid-19 became a focal point of our daily lives in March 2020, school administrators have followed the guidance of health experts and have emphasized frequent handwashing as a critical and effective step in preventing the spread of viruses and bacteria.
But after two years of Covid warnings and restrictions, people have become less vigilant about that simple task. According to a new survey, handwashing frequency by adults has decreased 25% from spring 2020 to January 2022.
Results of the Healthy Handwashing Survey
Parents may have become more complacent about handwashing, but they still are stressing the value of it for their children. The survey found that 79% of parents take some sort of action to encourage their children to wash their hands.
About 44% say they regularly ask their children to wash their hands, 26% have added it to their children’s routine and 25% provide “fun” soaps to make handwashing more appealing.
Parents say most schools still are making handwashing a priority—64% of parents say their child’s school or daycare builds handwashing into the daily schedule.
“Handwashing has been shown to be a simple, safe and effective way to reduce the transmission of viruses and bacteria, including the virus that causes Covid-19,” says medical microbiologist Michael P. McCann, professor and chair of biology at Saint Joseph's University. “It is essential that everyone maintain high levels of personal hygiene and that we do not let down our guard.”
According to the survey, before Covid began to spread, about 37% of Americans washed their hands six to 15 times a day. In April 2020, when concerns about Covid were at their highest, 78% were washing their hands six to 15 times a day. By January 2022, the percentage had declined to 56%.
Handwashing is especially important in schools because they are environments where germs spread easily. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 22 million school days are lost each year because of the common cold.
The survey found that most American adults have heeded advice about how long they should wash their hands. The CDC recommends lathering up and scrubbing for a minimum of 20 seconds. The survey found that 63% wash for an average of 21 seconds. However, 17% of the population say they only take five to 10 seconds.
Anxiety and actions surrounding the coronavirus have relaxed as the country enters the third year of the pandemic. In the survey, 78% of Americans say that as a result of the coronavirus, they are more aware of germs, compared with 89% in April 2020 and 86% in February 2021.
The survey queried 1,035 American adults in January about their handwashing habits.
Tik Tok vandalism
Many schools across the nation have been dealing for several months with a wave of vandalism in bathrooms prompted by challenges on the Tik Tok social media platform.
CNN reports that since September, so-called “devious lick” viral challenge has seen middle school, high school and college students vandalizing school property, most commonly bathrooms, and posting what they have done on Tik Tok or other social media applications.
Schools have had to shut down bathrooms to make repairs, and in some cases they have restricted students’ access to facilities because of the vandalism.
--Students at Lincoln High School in Lincoln, Calif., say all of the boy's restrooms have been closed because of vandalism from the Tik Tok trend. KXTV-TV reports say that because of the damage, the male students were limited to using only one single-stall bathroom in the library. The school says that soap dispensers have been destroyed, toilet paper has been scattered, and entire urinals have been stolen from school restrooms.
The Western Placer Unified School District said bathrooms at Lincoln High and other district schools have incurred significant damages. Those facilities have been closed until they can be repaired.
“Despite these challenges, the district is taking extensive steps to not only ensure there is adequate facility use for students, but inform students that acts of vandalism on our campuses will not be tolerated,” the district said.
--The Sweetwater (Texas) district has tightened its student bathroom policy after vandalism was in the high school and junior high. KTXS-TV reports that soap dispensers were pulled off walls, and light fixtures ripped out of the ceiling in some bathroom. The revised policy states that students are allowed six bathrooms passes per six weeks during class time and can use only one pass per day.
--The Nixa (Mo.) district has removed soap dispensers from several bathrooms at Nixa High School after months of vandalism that administrators blame on the Tik Tok challenge.