What’s next for public restrooms in a coronavirus world?
Early on in the pandemic, news outlets were flush with stories about the concerns surrounding public restrooms. People were worried that IF they went out, they’d have no place to go. Even in the best of recent times, public restrooms in the US were dismal or just plain non-existent. ARA President and Co-founder, Steve Soifer, calls them “the laughingstock of the developed world.” Covid-19 concerns exacerbated an already pretty bad situation. When the country turned to our service and delivery sector like never before, we greeted them with “restroom closed” signs. Parks – places to walk or run off our pandemic anxiety – turned nasty as visitors took to using the bushes because restrooms were off limits.
With the continued disappearance of purely public facilities, the US has relied on what we call a “quasi-public” infrastructure. “Quasi” in that government and municipalities have abdicated shifted responsibility for restrooms by relying on private enterprise (malls, shopping centers, restaurants) to provide facilities. Unfortunately, that puts the policing management of these facilities within the realm of private providers. And, the intractable problem of homelessness also means an intractable problem of where these fellow humans should relieve themselves.
Back to Covid-19: while some analyses call public restrooms a “moderate” risk, they are a risk. Current wisdom about the method of spread of coronavirus has highlighted the importance of adequate ventilation and limiting exposure to common areas. We recommend that restroom users sanitize or wash their hand prior to or on entering the restroom as a first step to limiting the spread in a shared space. Secondly, wear a mask (or even better, do the “Fauci-double.”) Limit your time in the restroom when possible. And of course, wash you hands on exiting. You can find our full set of recommendations here.
Now that the stakes have gotten higher for adequate facilities, we’ll keep fighting emphasizing the need for safe, available, well-designed public restrooms. Keep up with us by clicking here to subscribe to our monthly email newsletter.
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