By Stephanie Stahl

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — If your weekend plans involve activities away from home, health officials say you should consider the bathroom situation. Public restrooms could be an issue because of the coronavirus.

It might not be polite to talk about, but when nature calls, bathrooms are a necessity. And health officials say, public restrooms, used by lots of people, could be dangerous because of COVID-19.

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There are some precautions to consider with the coronavirus still circulating if you need to make a pit stop during the holiday weekend.

“If you’re in a public restroom and there are lots of people around you, especially not wearing masks, I’m not sure that would be a great idea,” said Dr. John Zurlo, head of infectious disease at Jefferson Hospital.

Zurlo says crowded bathrooms could be risky because COVID-19 spreads in close personal contact.

“Also, because in a bathroom you have so many high-contact surfaces, things like taps, soap dispensers, door handles, flush handles,” said Dr. Seema Yasmin, a former disease detective at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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While there’s less of a risk of spread from touch, the virus does circulate in the air.

“The hand-drying blower is a wonderful machine to spread germs and aerosols and droplets throughout the room. And another key thing is that when you flush a toilet, the act of flushing a toilet is actually an aerosol-generating device,” said Eric Feigl-Ding with Harvard University.

“Many public bathrooms have toilets that do not have lids, which means you’re pulling the flush, and generating this mist of droplets, without being able to contain that safely,” Yasmin said.

Some facilities are trying to reduce risk by marking off sinks and toilets so that every other one is used to maintain distance.

Removing bathroom doors, like many airports have done, limits touching.


McDonald’s has a new rule that bathrooms are going to be cleaned every half-hour, and some restaurant owners have their own measures.

“I have a bathroom attendant, at this point, where he or she stands outside the restrooms, only one person goes in at a time,” said restaurant owner Matt Brice.

Doctors say if you do have to use a public bathroom, in addition to hand-washing and then not touching anything, you should also wear a mask.

Stephanie Stahl