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Dr. Anthony Fauci, the longtime director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases who is a leading member of the White House’s coronavirus task force, says the tradition of shaking hands may need to come to an end even after the coronavirus pandemic is under control.

President Donald Trump shaking hands with John Mascola, the director of the Vaccine Research Center at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, in front of Dr. Anthony Fauci. BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images

Fauci spoke with Scott Thuman, Sinclair Broadcast Group’s chief political correspondent, on Tuesday and said the greeting might be outdated in a post-COVID-19 world. 

“As a society, just forget about shaking hands,” Fauci said. “We don’t need to shake hands. We’ve got to break that custom.”

“Because as a matter of fact, that is one of the major ways you can transmit a respiratory-borne illness,” he added. 

Fauci also told Thuman that the social implications of the coronavirus outbreak might linger within society long after the virus passes.

“I think what we’re going to have embedded and imprinted in us forever is the realization that something as catastrophic as what the world is experiencing now can happen,” he said. 

The 79-year-old has become one of the most public-facing members of the White House’s coronavirus response and frequently appears alongside President Donald Trump in press briefings. He has been an outspoken advocate of social-distancing measures and said early signs indicated that these measures were helping to slow the virus’ spread

“No crowds more than 10 people, keep 6 feet away, avoid crowded places, telework when you can — those are the kind of things that if we keep doing we’re going to see an even greater impact,” Fauci said during a White House press briefing. “That’s the reason why we need to keep, as I say, putting the foot on the accelerator and not the brake.”

Research has indicated that handshakes transfer double the number of bacteria you can get from a high five and that bacterial transmission can be reduced by up to 90% through fist bumps.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has advised Americans to avoid shaking hands and to bump elbows instead. Vice President Mike Pence has heeded the advice, though Trump was more reluctant to give up the greeting

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