Many people are re-learning the basics of proper hygiene these days, as health officials around the globe have increased recommended efforts of “social distancing” and maintaining good hand-washing to help stop the spread of the novel coronavirus.
Even former Vice President Joe Biden is getting tips on how to safely cough into his elbow.
CNN host Jake Tapper interrupted the Democratic presidential candidate in the middle of their interview Tuesday when Biden paused to cough into his hand. Tapper was quick to point out that’s not the way health experts say people should protect others around them when they cough.
The coronavirus, which causes the respiratory disease COVID-19, is spread by droplets from sneezing and coughing.
“You know, you’re supposed to cough into your elbow. I don’t know [if you know], sir,” Tapper, 51, told Biden. He lifted his elbow up to his face to demonstrate for the former vice president, 77, adding, “I learned that, actually, covering your White House.”
Biden recognized he coughed the incorrect way, he said, but maintained it was alright because he was home alone during their virtual interview.
“Actually, that’s true, but fortunately I’m alone in my home but that’s okay,” Biden said, repeating Tapper’s arm motion and then waving it off. “I agree, you’re right.”
The two started laughing as Tapper raised his elbow again, saying, “It’s kind of old school to do it with your hands. Do it into your elbow is how you’re supposed to do it.”
Biden thanked Tapper and the two jumped back into their discussion about the coronavirus pandemic, which has uprooted daily life in the United States and around the globe after first emerging in China late last year.
There had been about 59,000 confirmed cases of the virus in the U.S. and 809 deaths as of Wednesday afternoon, according to a New York Times tracker. Worldwide, there have been more than 441,000 confirmed cases of the virus and more than 19,700 deaths.
Biden told Tapper on Tuesday that he didn’t think the Democratic National Convention this summer or the 2020 elections in November should be canceled because of efforts to slow the spread of the virus, which has already postponed or canceled numerous events this spring.
The DNC is scheduled to take place in Milwaukee from July 13 to 16.
“I think we ought to be able to conduct our democratic processes as well as deal with this issue,” Biden told Tapper. “I don’t think it should be called off and I don’t think we should call off any of the elections. I think we just have to move forward.”
Biden suggested that the U.S. may need to depend on voting by mail for the 2020 elections.
“In the middle of the Civil War, we had an election and the virus in the 1900s — in the teens — we had an election. In the middle of World War II we had an election,” Biden said. “We can’t let the Democratic process be interrupted by the process of dealing with this virus. We can do both.”
Social distancing and self-isolation efforts to slow the virus’ spread have led to a massive shutdown across much of the U.S. and many other countries. Schools, sports leagues, office spaces, bars, dine-in restaurants, retail stores and public places have been closed while health experts and the Trump administration navigate how to best transition back to normal life while mitigating the infection rate so hospitals are not overwhelmed. (Some of the most severe coronavirus patients require weeks-long hospitalizations.)
Lawmakers this week reached a deal on a historic $2 trillion relief package that will inject the limping American economy with a needed financial boost, while President Donald Trump said Tuesday he hoped to see much of the country return to normal by Easter on April 12 — which health experts have cautioned may not be possible or safe.
Trump said Tuesday that he named Easter as the target date because “it would be a beautiful timeline.”
Dr. Peter Hotez, who is the dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine and a leading voice on global health outbreaks, told PEOPLE on Tuesday that health officials are still collecting data about the virus and that Trump’s goal only a few weeks away “flies in the face of what the data’s telling us.”
“It’s a short-term decision that has long-term consequences,” Hotez said. “I’m arguing we’re not in a position to make that decision by April 12 yet, because we don’t know the full extent of this epidemic. But we’ll know a lot more in a month than we will now.”
To prevent the spread of the virus, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention encourages maintaining basic forms of hygiene including careful hand washing, avoiding touching the face, moving away from people who are coughing or sneezing and staying home at signs of illness.
Health officials have also urged people around the country to practice social distancing and avoid gatherings and stay home as much as possible to slow new infections.
As information about the coronavirus pandemic rapidly changes, PEOPLE is committed to providing the most recent data in our coverage. Some of the information in this story may have changed after publication. For the latest on COVID-19, readers are encouraged to use online resources from CDC, WHO, and local public health departments and visit our coronavirus hub.
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