I once knew a fellow who seldom washed his hands. Or, the rest of his body, as far as I know, though I was not close enough to swear to that.

Exposed parts and a particular aroma gave pretty solid evidence of his poor hygiene habits. He had a fondness for donut holes, scarfing them down after retrieving them from a bag with his grimy hands. He never offered to share, though I certainly would have declined.

If nothing else, the COVID-19 madness that has us cowering behind closed doors has established that Mama was right. Wash your hands. Don’t just run water over them to try and fool your parents as you rush to the dinner table. Soap and water ... thorough scrubbing for 20 seconds. Repeating couldn’t hurt.

As I write this on Thursday evening, everything from basketball tournaments to schools to public events are being shut down to try and curb the spread of this virus.

Washing hands thoroughly and frequently is just one measure that has been strongly suggested. The suggestion is nothing new, coming from health experts to mamas everywhere. But the advent of a pandemic has given more urgency to the importance of basic hygiene. (Do they even teach hygiene in schools anymore?)

My experience as a substitute teacher, especially at the elementary school level, was that even kids who know the basics don’t really focus on them. Many of my subbing jobs came after teachers became ill from something they no-doubt contracted from their students. I have a relatively strong immune system, but I still blanched every time a kid coughed germs into the air. “Use your elbow, kid.” “Oh, yeah. Sorry.”

Even when I stood at the door with hand sanitizer as they exited to the lunchroom, some managed to cough into their just-detoxified hands.

The COVID-19 scare has taken on political dimensions, in part because of claims that the president cut funds that would have bolstered our anti-pandemic efforts.

Democrats and even a few Republicans are finding ways to blame all this on Donald Trump. The President, from what I see, is blaming it on folks abroad. Give it a rest, everyone. The important thing here is to heed the advice of medical experts, the World Health Organization and even folks across the seas who are feeling the tremendous impact of all this.

Circulating too are rumors that all this is a plot to get rid of old people (a group most susceptible to being fatally infected.) Too many people willing to believe anything juicy are quickly forwarding the rumors as facts without checking authentic sources. Some don’t believe the outlandish rumors, but find it amusing to spread (or post) them where clueless people will accept them as fact.

It’s not funny, folks.

Bringing out statistics that show far more cases of flu cause death than COVID-19 in no way lessens the need for everyone to take precautions, one of which is frequent washing of hands.

Gov. Andy Beshear has suggested churches consider proper precautions, including canceling services where large groups congregate. It was not an order or a breach of church and state restrictions, as some reactionaries have suggested. It was merely a reminder that the health and safety of everyone should be a priority. I will be in church on Sunday, as I am every week, praying that everyone will use some common sense in dealing with this pandemic.

Wash your hands.

Peace.

Tom Clinton retired as executive editor of The Messenger in 2011. He and his wife, Barbara, live in Lone Oak.

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