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Thursday, December 9, 2021

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    To shake hands or not? An age-old human gesture now in limbo

    As the pandemic took hold, a Kansas City-area meeting and event planning business began hawking “I Shake Hands” stickers to help ease awkward social encounters.

    “We didn’t want the sticker to say, ‘We Don’t Shake Hands’ because that is kind of off-putting,” said John DeLeon, vice president of operations and sales at MTI Events, adding that the idea was that anti-shakers could simply choose not to wear one of the stickers. “But if someone had the sticker on in that group, then that was the indication that it was OK.”

    Now, as workers return to the office, friends reunite and more church services shift from Zoom to in person, this exact question is befuddling growing numbers of people: to shake or not to shake?

    The handshake has been around for centuries. A widely held belief is that it originated to prove to someone that a person was offering peace and not holding a hidden weapon. But hands can be germy — coated with fecal matter and E. coli.

    In this Aug. 3, 2021 file photo, Germany's Tobias Constantin Hauke, left, and Australia's Aran Zalewski (17) greet each other before a men's field hockey semi-final match at the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, Japan.

    Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s leading infectious disease expert, cautioned last year, “I don’t think we should ever shake hands ever again, to be honest with you.”

    On the other side is Dr. Amesh Adalja, an infectious disease specialist at Johns Hopkins University. He thinks the whole shaking controversy is overblown. The solution, he says, is simple: “If you are worried about COVID, the best way to make handshakes safe is to be fully vaccinated. And for any other things that might be on people’s hands, just wash your hands before you touch your face. That is what hand sanitizer is for.”

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