Jennifer Peña/Staff Writer
If you spent some time on campus before the recent news about FIU’s transition to “remote learning,” you probably saw the new hand sanitizer dispensers at the MMC library entrance or the hygiene guidelines that were put up around BBC advising you to wash your hands and cough into your elbow.
I’ve noticed that these hygiene tips are being treated as a new concept, even though we’re in the midst of flu season. Hygiene shouldn’t just be emphasized now that people are wary of the coronavirus.
With the recent news that classes will be held online over the next few weeks, whether there are sufficient hand sanitizer dispensers and signs around campus is less of a pressing concern—at least for now. The importance of keeping our hands and surfaces clean won’t disappear when we come back to campus.
Something that especially stands out to me is how similar the coronavirus signs are to standard flu season warnings. Both the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have flu season guidelines available online.
Last fall semester, FIU students received emails with flu guidelines. Despite that, I don’t remember regular talk of hygiene in my classes and online because of the flu—at least not to the current extent that coronavirus is being discussed.
OSHA’s website recommends washing hands “for at least twenty seconds” to protect against the flu. If that sounds familiar, it’s because that’s the same amount of time people are recommended to wash their hands to prevent the spread of coronavirus.
The CDC’s website also advises people to clean their hands and avoid touching their faces to prevent catching or spreading the flu. Again, these regular flu season warnings are being discussed as if they’re new because of the coronavirus.
It makes me wonder whether the fear of the coronavirus, which is new relative to the seasonal flu, is the main reason for the proactive hygiene measures around campus. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing because it can lead to people having better hygiene practices, but the signs should have gone up sooner. After all, it’s still flu season, and as someone who had the flu twice last year, I can vouch for how awful it makes you feel. Even without the paranoia surrounding the coronavirus, good hygiene practices on campus are important to prevent the spread of viruses.
This is not to say that we should dismiss the coronavirus pandemic and its risks to people’s health in any way. I just hope that the hygiene warnings won’t get treated as a passing trend. It’s important to take care of ourselves and those around us by practicing good hygiene year-round, and that will still be the case when we’re hopefully back to our usual business on campus next month.
Both for ourselves and for our fellow Panthers, let’s not treat good hygiene as a thing of the moment. No matter what flu or virus is going around, let’s put our Panther paws up—or rather, under the sink as we wash them for at least twenty seconds.
Featured image by U.S. Department of Agriculture on Flickr.
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