Twenty years ago this fall, the TV show “The West Wing” debuted. It’s fair to say it was an idealistic portrayal of life in public service. Its characters could recite a barrage of meaningful facts seemingly at will and bend a debate in their direction almost every time.
So, here are a few facts:
• The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention wants you to wash your hands often, and well. Just as your mother told you, it stops germs from spreading. Bad ones, like influenza or salmonella or certain strains of Escherichia coli.
• According to the CDC’s guide, good hand-washing technique has five steps — wet, lather, scrub, rinse, dry — that should include at least 20 seconds of scrubbing time.
• The average amount of time people spent washing their hands (when they did at all) in a 2013 observational study in restrooms by researchers at Michigan State University was 6 seconds. Just 5.3% of people “approached the recommended hand-washing duration.” Perhaps you know someone in the other 94.7%. We know we do.
The topic of hand-washing made news in Minnesota recently after an E. coli outbreak was linked to contact with animals and contaminated surfaces at the Minnesota State Fair’s Miracle of Birth Center. It prompted health officials to remind the public about the importance of hygiene, which in turn prompted a Sept. 22 letter to the editor about the 20-second guideline and proper hand-washing technique, which in turn prompted reader Mary Hanson (host of public television’s “The Mary Hanson Show”) to send in a set of visual instructions made a few years ago by her grandson, Makai Hanson Bates, when he was 7. Hanson notes that “scegwoul” means “schedule,” and we’d note that Makai throws in an extra second of scrubbing for good measure.
We enjoyed seeing the drawing and thought you would, too, so we’re sharing it with this editorial. You may or may not recall statistics the next time you find yourself in front of a sink, but we dare you not to picture Makai’s step-by-step guide.