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How safe are public restrooms amid COVID-19?

Study: Coronavirus found in human waste up to a month after a patient recovered

ATLANTA — As more places reopen, we start to think about details like using the bathroom in public. Health experts say public restrooms could be dangerous because of COVID-19.

A recent study showed coronavirus was found in human waste up to a month after a patient recovered which may raise some concerns around the toilet "cloud plume."

It’s what goes out of the toilet when you flush.

Dr. Greg Poland with the Mayo Clinic said it  "distributes virus or whatever is in there on everything in that washroom."

But steps can be taken to help keep you safe. 

"Most important is regular cleaning frequent cleaning and disinfecting bathrooms, for those can afford it UV radiation," said Steven Soifer, president of the American Restroom Association.

McDonald's will clean its bathrooms every half hour. The Washinton Post reports that updates like touchless sinks and paper towel dispensers will be left up to franchise operators. 

The Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) said they’ve hired an additional person for each shift to maintain facilities like rest stops. Hourly spot cleaning and disinfecting will be conducted on commonly-used surfaces.

At Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, restrooms are cleaned daily by janitorial staff and a dedicated active attendant. The airport said the faucets, soap dispensers, towel dispensers, and hand sanitizer units are all hands-free to reduce possible transmission.

These are quick fixes, though. More long-term ones could be costly. Soifer said that could mean up to $25,000 to make the proper improvements. 

He said the majority of American public restrooms need a complete overhaul beyond the pandemic crisis. 

"Ideally, we’d like to see a whole new design of public toilets. We advocate single-stall, unisex, fully-enclosed water closets," said Soifer.

He said they'd also like to see more social distancing both at urinals and at sinks.

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