• Health authorities around the world, including in the US, have advised people to stop shaking hands to avoid getting infected by the coronavirus.
  • Many, including Vice President Mike Pence, are now bumping elbows as an alternative greeting.
  • But President Donald Trump said he would stick to the old way because “you can’t be a politician and not shake hands.”
  • Trump, a self-described germaphobe, admitted that he is “not thrilled” at the prospect of shaking hands in an outbreak.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

President Donald Trump said he would continue to shake people’s hands during the coronavirus outbreak, despite his germaphobia and advice from health officials, because “you can’t be a politician and not shake hands.”

“I’m not thrilled,” he told a Fox News town hall in Scranton, Pennsylvania, on Thursday.

Footage showed Trump shaking one audience member’s hand and those of hosts Martha MacCallum and Bret Baier’s when he got to the event.

“I always felt the concept wasn’t good,” he said. “You read a lot of medical reports [and] it’s not good now.”

“If there was ever a time that you could convince people not to shake hands this would be it.”

He added, however: “I love the people of this country, and you can’t be a politician and not shake hands. And I’ll be shaking hands with people and [if] they want to say hello and hug you and kiss you, I don’t care.”

trump shake hands fox news town hall

Trump shaking hands with the Fox News town hall moderators Bret Baier and Martha MacCallum at the Scranton Cultural Center in Pennsylvania on March 5, 2020.

Leah Millis/Reuters


Trump is a self-described germaphobe and has frequently discussed the hygiene measures he takes, even before the virus emerged.

As it the spread of infection became a pressing issue, he shared his own tips at a press conference last week.

He urged people to follow his example by washing their hands, avoiding touching handrails, and leaving the room if someone sneezes.

Authorities around the world, including the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, have advised people to stop shaking hands during outbreaks — as well as washing their hands and not touching their faces — to prevent the virus from spreading.

Sports teams have told players to stop shaking hands before games, while the French government advised citizens to refrain from the traditional greeting of kissing each other on the cheek.

People have instead started to bump elbows, tap their feet, or put their own hands together to avoid hand-to-hand contact.

Vice President Mike Pence greeted Washington Governor Jay Inslee on Thursday by bumping elbows.

Pence Inslee coronavirus alternative handshake

Washington Governor Jay Inslee and Vice President Mike Pence elbow-bumping.

AP Photo/Ted S. Warren


The UK appears to be a relatively lone holdout in offering official advice that shaking hands is OK.

Matt Hancock, the UK health secretary, told BBC Breakfast on Tuesday: “The impact of shaking hands is negligible, what really matters is washing hands.”

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