BOSTON (CBS) – This assignment made me re-think the way I go about my normal everyday activities. I counted how many times I came into contact with potentially thousands of germs at a time. I’m talking about simple things like opening the door to my workplace, where there are people who openly admit they’re sick.
Within the first few minutes, I had touched my heavily used phone, the mouse and keyboard on my computer shared by many in the newsroom. From the door on the way out, to the door handle to get in the taxi, by the time I was downtown, I had counted seven points of contact with germs.
Then I took the T. I pulled the door to get in, touched the railing on the way down, and the CharlieCard touchscreen. By the time I had counted to 11, I saw a man walking around with a face mask. “I keep this one when people are coughing,” he explained.
Dr. Robyn Riseberg, a pediatrician with the South End Community Health Center explains why his behavior isn’t as extreme as we might think. “If they’re not really covering their mouth closely when they cough, that’s when they go airborne,” she says.
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She watched a video of my activities, touching things like the handle on the train. When I stepped off, I bought a bottle of water, and grabbed a fist full of change. “Think of all the places that money has been,” said Dr. Riseberg. I walked a block to the Massachusetts State House building to use the bathroom. I had counted 16 times I had touched some of the city’s most heavily used public surfaces in one hour.
Dr. Riseberg assured me, washing my hands with soap would be enough to stay healthy, plus a little antibacterial gel. “I see kids all day long here in my office, and I’m sneezed on, spit on, coughed on and I really don’t get sick because I just wash my hands constantly. Of all the advances we’ve had, it’s still really the best protection.”