Today’s coronavirus news: An epidemiologist weighs in on handshakes during this Thanksgiving weekend

The latest coronavirus news from Canada and around the world Sunday. This file will be updated throughout the day. Web links to longer stories if available.

7:45 a.m.: This weekend, people all across the country will be gathering with family and friends, many for the first time in ages. But how does one greet others without breaking pandemic protocol?

As Minister Frank McGee and his dog Grundy demonstrated in 1963, when this photo was captured by Star photographer Frank Tesky, touch — whether it be shaking hands or hugging — is how many of us say hi. It’s a hard habit to break. But should handshaking become a thing of the past?

“Hand-to-hand contact isn’t likely to be a major risk [for COVID transmission],” says Colin Furness, infection control epidemiologist at the University of Toronto, “but coming in close to someone long enough to shake their hand is an issue, if the people involved aren’t wearing high-quality masks that are properly fitted.”

Still, Furness admits he’d like to see an end to handshaking. “Objectively,” he says, “hands are gross. Touch may not matter so much for COVID, but it almost certainly does for other serious viruses. The other reason is bacterial contamination. Most bacteria are harmless or beneficial. Our bodies are covered in bacteria, inside and out. But some types, associated with the ‘two Fs’ (food and feces) are very harmful. Between kitchens and bathrooms, our hands can get dangerously dirty.”

Even though people have learned over the past 18 months to wash their hands frequently, Furness says that’s not enough. After conducting extensive research on hand-hygiene behaviour of hospital patients, staff, and visitors, he found that “all three groups had the same rate of hand washing in bathrooms: 30%. That’s low.

“I’m not a germaphobe,” he adds, “but I’m a real fan of hand sanitizer. If we shook hands less, we’d sure need it less. And we’d get sick less.”

Read more on Jessica Dee Humphreys’ “Now that Thanksgiving’s within reach, is it safe to shake hands?”

Sunday 7:44 a.m.: Tea party firebrand Allen West, a candidate for the Republican nomination for governor of Texas, said Saturday that he has received monoclonal antibody injections after being diagnosed with COVID-19 pneumonia.

The antibodies are used to treat those in the early stages of a coronavirus infection.

“My chest X-rays do show COVID pneumonia, not serious. I am probably going to be admitted to the hospital,” West wrote. “There’s a concern about my oxygen saturation levels, which are at 89 and they should be at 95.”

He also said his wife, Angela West, also tested positive and has received monoclonal antibodies. According to his Twitter account, Allen West did not get vaccinated against the virus, but his wife did.

Allen West on Thursday said he had attended a “packed house” Mission Generation Annual Gala & Fundraiser in Seabrook, Texas. On Saturday he tweeted that he is “suspending in-person events until receiving an all-clear indication.”

Read Saturday’s coronavirus news.

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