How do you navigate handshakes as restrictions loosen? Medical, etiquette experts offer advice

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Posted at 11:19 AM, May 28, 2021

LEXINGTON, Ky. — The handshake. It was one of the first things to go when COVID-19 hit.

However, now that masks are coming off and more people are being vaccinated, some people are shaking hands once again.

But should they be doing that?

In April, Dr. Anthony Fauci, who serves as the president's chief medical advisor, told a Wall Street Journal podcast that he believes handshakes should be a thing of the past.

"I don't think we should ever shake hands ever again, to be honest with you," he said on the podcast. "Not only would it be good to prevent coronavirus disease, it probably would decrease instances of influenza dramatically in this country."

However, others want the handshake to return.

WLEX turned to the University of Kentucky Hospital's Infection Prevention & Control and Patient Safety team for answers.

"If you're going to handshake, you've got to be thinking about wiping your hands more frequently," said Kimberly Blanton, the groups' enterprise director. "Doing that hand hygiene."

Blanton's best advice for those who want to shake hands is the same advice we've heard throughout the pandemic: wash your hands.

"If the pandemic taught us anything, you've got to have those standard infection control practices and hand hygiene is the number one thing you can do," said Blanton.

But even if you're ready to shake hands again, keep in mind that others may not be.

"It's probably going to be awkward for a little bit," said etiquette expert Nancy Boatman.

Before COVID-19, Boatman used to have her students at Nancy Boatman Etiquette practice good handshakes often.

"One of the most important things is a handshake. I have my students, whether you're 7 years old or 70, practice handshakes. You want to have good posture. You want to look someone in the eye, smile, and you want to put out your right hand and give a firm handshake," explained Boatman. "I would always practice that with my students because I wanted to make sure that they do it correctly because it sets a good first impression, and it helps the other person feel welcome."

Now, Boatman tells everyone the best thing you can do is give people grace. Some may want to shake hands while others may not. Both are okay, according to Boatman.

"If someone goes to shake your hand and you're okay with it, shake their hand. Maybe go wash your hands right after if you're concerned about germs," said Boatman. "But if you're not comfortable with that, maybe put up an elbow or a foot tap."

Boatman suggests people have a plan on what to do.

"Have a plan in your head now because it probably will come up," said Boatman. "And then you immediately - if someone puts out their hand - you say elbow bump or foot tap."

A smile and hand wave also work, according to Boatman.

She says the key is to do what you're comfortable with, whether it's a handshake, a hug with a loved one, or an elbow bump. If you do it with kindness, your good intentions will show.

"If you try to try to be respectful and considerate of the person you're greeting, I think it will all work out," said Boatman.

This story was originally published by Karolina Buczek at WLEX.