‘Keep it clean’: Doctor says ‘majority’ of patients get COVID-19 from touching their faces

There’s one coronavirus prevention tip that people seem to have the most trouble following — but it might be the most important.

An “overwhelming majority” of coronavirus patients get the disease by touching their faces after coming into contact with a COVID-19 carrier, Dr. David Price warned in an interview with Fox News journalist Jesse Watters on Saturday. Price, who is a doctor at Weill Cornell Medical Center in New York, said that Americans can overcome COVID-19 if they keep their hands clean and away from the face.

“Become a hand Nazi. Everything you know about your hands, just keep it clean and you will not get this disease,” Price told Watters, according to Fox. “The second thing is you have to start psychologically working on the connection between your hands and your face.”

Don’t touch your face

As frightening as the pandemic might be, health officials are learning that the coronavirus is spread — and can be fought — in a fairly straightforward way, Dr. Price said Saturday. Worrisome reports that the coronavirus can spread by lingering in the air do not account for the majority of infections, the doctor explained; rather, the virus almost always spreads from hand-to-face contact.

“The ways that you get this is the transmission of the virus almost exclusively from your hands to your face, from your hands to your face and inside your eyes, into your nose or into your mouth,” Price told Watters, according to Fox. “So there’s a lot of talk about contact or getting it through contacts, hands to face.”

Some studies have found that the coronavirus can survive for hours at a time in the air and even days on contaminated surfaces, according to The Hill. But people shouldn’t worry about that too much as long as they keep their hands clean, Price said.

“Those two things combined is incredibly powerful and will prevent the transmission of disease in your family in 99% of cases, to know your hands are clean and not touch your face, period,” Price said, according to Fox.

Breaking the habit

While this home-spun advice may be welcome, it’s also something of a catch-22: how do you break an unconscious habit? It’s one thing to be constantly washing hands, but it’s something else to stop doing something most people never think about. By some estimates, people unconsciously touch their faces more than 20 times an hour, the BBC reports.

There’s no perfect solution, but some experts recommend wearing masks or just trying to be mindful of the habit. “When it is a physical need like an itch, for example, we can build a substitute behavior,” Michael Hallsworth, a behavioral scientist at Columbia University, told the BBC. “Use the back of the arm. You reduce the risk, even if it’s not an ideal solution.”

New York, where Dr. Price works, is at the epicenter of the American outbreak. The death toll in America doubled this weekend to more than 2,000, according to the New York Post; meanwhile, millions of Americans have filed for unemployment compensation as policy leaders struggle to balance an economic crisis with an evolving and fearsome health threat, The Washington Post reported.

President Donald Trump, for his part, has said that he will extend the federal government’s social distancing guidelines through April 30, walking back earlier hopes of opening America’s economy back up by Easter, according to Fox. But despite the massive scale of the crisis and its ramifications, fighting the pandemic really starts with individuals making changes to their behavior.

“The thing that makes me smile a little bit is I actually know now that I won’t get this disease because I know how to protect myself,” Price said Saturday.

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