How to safely touch gas pumps, ATMs and other surfaces


How to safely touch gas pumps, ATMs and other surfaces

With the emergence of COVID-19, many people are wary about touching gas pumps, handrails, elevator buttons, doorknobs and other commonly touched surfaces.
Although the virus is thought to spread primarily through respiratory droplets from coughing, sneezing and talking, studies have shown it can live for hours or days on certain surfaces, such as handles, keyboards, doorknobs and tabletops. 
“The concern is that you could become infected by touching something contaminated with the virus, then touching your face nose, mouth or eyes,” says Dr. Gerald Harmon, vice president of medical affairs and a family medicine physician at Tidelands Health. “That’s why it’s important to be careful about surfaces you touch, try to avoid touching your face and wash your hands regularly and thoroughly.”

Safety measures

To reassure community members it’s safe to get the medical care they need, Tidelands Health, our region’s largest health care provider, has supercharged its already intensive cleaning and disinfecting processes as part of the health system’s “Safe in Our Care” commitment.
The multi-faceted effort includes frequent cleaning and disinfection of high-touch items, removal of reading material and brochures from public spaces, wide availability of hand sanitizer in the health system’s care locations, thorough cleaning disinfection of each exam room following every patient visit as well as contactless procedures for collecting payment and insurance information and plexiglass shields or glass doors at check-in and check-out areas, among many other measures.

The ‘Safe in Our Care’ commitment

Tidelands Health has implemented extra precautions to keep you safe while you get the medical care you need. Learn more about the health system’s “Safe in Our Care” commitment by clicking here. 

“We’ve always followed extremely stringent cleaning protocols,” Dr. Harmon says. “For added safety and peace of mind, we have enhanced those protocols so our community knows it’s safe to get the medical care they need at Tidelands Health.”

At home

Dr. Harmon says it’s important people regularly clean and disinfect high-touch items in their homes, too. In addition, if you venture out, you can take steps to protect yourself, such as:

  • Regularly wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or, if soap and water aren’t available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol. Avoid touching your face as much as possible.
  • Don’t use your fingertips, which people tend to use to touch their face, to push buttons or pull doorknobs. Instead, use your knuckle to push buttons and your elbow to open doors.
  • Use paper towels or tissue as a barrier when touching handrails, toilet handles, gas pumps and other high-touch items. Throw them away immediately after use.
  • Keep your cell phone in your purse or pocket to avoid placing it on a potentially contaminated surface. Clean your cell phone often using a microfiber cloth and mild soap and water.
  • Use a pen or other item to press buttons on ATMs or grocery store pin pads.

Of course, Dr. Harmon says, it’s also important to follow social distancing guidelines when out in public and wear a face covering or mask in places, such as the grocery store or pharmacy, where social distancing is difficult.
Be sure to cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or bent elbow if you need to cough or sneeze.
If you exhibit symptoms of COVID-19 such as fever, cough and chills, don’t venture out. Take the the no-cost MUSC Health virtual screening tool at to help determine if you need to make an appointment with a care provider. If you need follow-up care, you will be contacted by a local care provider to schedule an appointment.
In the alternative, you can call your family medicine physician and schedule an appointment, or call 1-866-TIDELANDS for helping finding a provider. In an emergency, always call 911.

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