Coronavirus: Is It Safe to Use a Public Restroom?


As the United States begins to reopen during the COVID-19 pandemic, many may be wondering when it will be okay to use public spaces.

If you're spending more time out of the house amid reopenings, you will have to deal with one more thing during closures: using the bathroom.

Is it safe to use a public bathroom during the global coronavirus outbreak? Experts spoke to Today on whether or not public toilets are safe to use.

Peter Pitts, the president and co-founder of the Center for Medicine in the Public Interest in New York, said that it's all about risk and benefit when it comes to the deadly virus.

"The risk is 'Can I use a public restroom safely without an overwhelming risk of contracting COVID-19?' And the answer is absolutely yes," Pitts said.

Wearing face masks, washing your hands, and putting the toilet lid down – these are all behaviors that may help prevent the transmission of coronavirus.

A recent study by a team in Yangzhou University in China found that putting the toilet lid down prior to flushing may help prevent the spread of COVID-19. A computer model showed that after using the toilet, flushing causes a cloud of little particles containing fecal matter to get sent nearly three feet into the air, according to the journal Physics of Fluids.

These particles of fecal matter may contain the novel virus and may linger long enough for the next person to inhale or land on shared bathroom surfaces.

Experts say that your most significant risk is standing close in line for a public bathroom. It helps when people can avoid going into a crowded restroom. If you cannot wait, people should try to find a less crowded bathroom or has a shorter line.

"The evidence is very clear that the way that you are most likely to contact the COVID-19 is through close physical proximity with people, not with porcelain," Pitts added.

If you have to use a public bathroom, the best thing to do is wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water and try not to touch the door on your way in or out.

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