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Why did many Americans stop shaking hands long before the coronavirus?

52% of the respondents to a survey say they've seen co-workers leave the bathroom without washing their hands.

ATLANTA — The suggestion that we end the tradition of shaking hands rattled some, but many Americans stopped long before the coronavirus.

Imagine a political rally without the familiar, up-close exchange between candidates and voters. We are often judged by the firmness of our grip. Grasping hands is second nature to most of us when we greet someone else.

When Dr. Anthony Fauci of the Coronavirus Task Force suggested that we should “forget about shaking hands” ever again, a good many Americans were way ahead of him.

Why?

The practice of shaking hands dates back to ancient Greece. It was a way to greet your neighbor and check each other for weapons.

A pair of surveys commissioned by Purell show that for at least a decade, Americans have drifted away from the handshake due to an increasing fear of germs. In 2010, one year after the Swine Flu pandemic, 28%  of the people surveyed by Wakefield Research said they were hesitant to shake hands for several reasons, with germs being the leading cause.

During a follow-up survey five years later, the number jumped to 44%

The problem is that 81% said they’d witnessed co-workers sneezing or coughing into their hands. More than half said they’d seen someone leave the restroom without washing up.

In the face of a new pandemic, 11Alive viewers are weighing in.

“I don’t shake hands for two reasons,” says Morning Rush Insider Keith Guernsey commented on Facebook. “I have cancer and I don’t want to risk it. Dr. Fauci says he thinks not shaking hands should be permanent, and of all Trump’s staff, he appears to me to be the most knowledgeable.”

Some insist they’ll return to tradition when appropriate.

“When other people aren’t so nervous,  I’ll shake hands again,” writes Wendy Holden Merry. “You can’t get away from germs. Just wash your hands.”

 But the majority indicate the coronavirus has changed them.

“I understand the handshake,” says Ricardo Jacobs “But I will prefer to fist bump as an alternative.”

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