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Coronavirus Protection: For Some, Hand-Washing is a Challenge

In Wisconsin, state health officials say more than a dozen people are being monitored for coronavirus. There has been at least one positive test in the state. (Adobe Stock)
In Wisconsin, state health officials say more than a dozen people are being monitored for coronavirus. There has been at least one positive test in the state. (Adobe Stock)
March 6, 2020

MADISON, Wis. -- Wisconsin health officials are monitoring more than a dozen more residents for coronavirus. They also continue to urge people to wash their hands routinely to avoid contracting the virus. But for people who are homeless, that's an obvious problem.

Access to running water or proper hygiene products can be hard to come by for the homeless, and Dr. Tom Russo -- professor of medicine at the University at Buffalo -- says that removes an extra level of protection for these individuals.

"They likely will be at greater risk for acquiring not only the new coronavirus," says Russo, "but a wide variety of infections that potentially could be transmitted through your hands being contaminated and then, touching a critical surface, such as your mouth, nose, eyes."

Russo says soap and water, even if it isn't hot water, still offers a fairly safe level of protection.

Some communities are responding to the added threat for those who are less fortunate. In Texas, the San Antonio Food Bank is distributing coronavirus preparedness kits for low-income households.

There have also been calls to add public washing stations in cities with higher homeless populations.

Even if you don't have immediate access to germ-fighting tools, Russo adds, there's another option.

"People in these unfortunate situations often use public facilities - bathrooms, if they don't have toilet paper - things like that," says Russo. "Obviously, those same venues have sinks, hopefully with soap, which could be an alternative. Obviously, not ideal."

He says if you find yourself in critical need of a public facility to ensure your hands are clean, try to find one that is routinely cleaned and stocked with supplies.

Mike Moen, Public News Service - WI