Q: How should you tell people you don’t want to shake hands or have other physical contact because of coronavirus?


A: Contrary to cliché, misery does not love company. Whether it’s the coronavirus or the common cold, always be considerate when you’re in public spaces. A handshake is risky business, so lead by example.

At this stage of the pandemic, reduction of any physical contact is recommended, thus the handshake has been replaced by germ-free gestures. Some acceptable substitutes are an air kiss, royal wave or a namaste greeting. (Elbow bumps are falling out of favor because they violate the 6-foot separation rule.)

COVID-19 is a perfect example of how etiquette evolves to fit circumstances. The handshake is on hold for what could be an indefinite period. Most people will understand why you don’t want to shake hands — and probably don’t want to do so, either.

But if you really are worried about insulting someone, here are some polite ways to tell someone you’re not comfortable with physical contact:

“I’m happy about not spreading any germs that I might have and am doing my small part in shutting down this person-to-person disease.”

“It’s odd not shaking hands, but because everyone else is avoiding it, it feels like the new normal.”

Or just cut to the quick: “I don’t feel comfortable with physical greetings.”

LISA GROTTS, the “Golden Rules Gal” and etiquette expert


A: As a stand-up comedian who shares microphones with dozens of people a week, and as a woman who has spent a lifetime trying to avoid unwanted contact from strangers, I urge you to start by being honest. Simply tell people, “I’m trying to keep my hands to myself for the next few weeks” or “I just washed my hands.” That should be enough for anyone who has followed the news recently.

Initiate a no-touch alternative to shaking hands with an air five or bro nod. And if that doesn’t work, just start coughing wildly and watch the good folks scatter.