Coronavirus (COVID-19): Why Hand Washing Matters

March 11, 2020

Protect yourself and your family: Wash your hands. This basic hygiene practice helps prevent the spread of germs, including the coronavirus, which can lead to the illness known as COVID-19.

It’s important to wash your hands throughout the day, says Jacquelyn B. Cawley, DO, vice president and chief medical officer for BayCare Ambulatory Care and Clinical Integration. Dr. Cawley recommends washing your hands before and after the following activities:

  • Before, during and after preparing and cooking food
  • Before eating food
  • Before and after you touch someone who is sick 
  • Before and after treating wounds 
  • After changing diapers 
  • After blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing 
  • After using the toilet 
  • After touching public bathroom doors 
  • After touching an animal or animal waste 
  • After feeding an animal or handling pet food 
  • After handling garbage
  • After shaking hands with people 
  • After touching public doors and surfaces 

There are seven steps to properly washing your hands:

  • Wet your hands with running water (warm if possible) 
  • Apply soap and lather well 
  • Rub your hands vigorously for 20 seconds or the amount of time it takes to sing “Happy Birthday” twice  
  • Wash your nails and between fingers 
  • Rinse your hands well 
  • Dry your hands with a clean towel 
  • If in a public environment, turn the faucet off using a paper towel

If you or a loved one experience lower-respiratory symptoms and believe you have been exposed to COVID-19 through travel or contact with someone who traveled, contact the Florida Department of Health (FDOH) directly at 866-779-6121 or email at If you decide to seek medical care, first call your primary care doctor or the facility, so they can prepare for their arrival.

To keep up with the latest on COVID-19, visit or follow us on social media channels @BayCare. 

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