Helaine Knapp is a hugger. But these days, the 33-year-old is opting for “a very lovely, casual elbow bump.”
Now that the deadly coronavirus is a certifiable pandemic, “We’re not hugging anymore,” Knapp, an Upper East Sider and founder of fitness studio CityRow, tells The Post. “I don’t know where you’ve been, and you don’t know where I’ve been. This is the new norm.”
In the weeks since the virus’ outbreak, people have come up with all kinds of ways to avoid germ-laden handshakes and other physical contact, including an intricate foot-to-foot greeting known as the “Wuhan Shake.” The head of the World Health Organization, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, recommends solemnly placing one’s hand on one’s chest. Like Knapp, US Surgeon General Jerome Adams prefers an elbow bump.
Even so, dodging a handshake — or, heaven forbid, a hug — can be awkward.
But experts say there are poised ways to avoid physical greetings in these troubled times.
“If someone reaches out to shake your hand, either socially or in business, you can simply say, ‘I’m going handshake-free to be extra careful,’ ” says Myka Meier, founder of NYC-based Beaumont Etiquette and author of “Modern Etiquette Made Easy.” “It shows thoughtfulness for other people’s health and well-being.”
Meier, too, is also going “contact-less” for the time being, and says it should be seen as a sign of respect, not a rebuff. Still, there are potential social pitfalls.
“I’d steer clear of telling people things like ‘I don’t want to spread germs,’ which implies you are sick, or saying anything that would imply they are ill,” she says, adding that one of the most offensive things you can do is “racially or culturally profile someone and treat them differently.”
She suggests two alternatives: Her “Stop, Drop and Nod” involves a pause, then clasping your hands behind your back and nodding in acknowledgement. Her second option, the “Grasp and Greet,” involves folding your hands together in front of yourself and mouthing or saying hello. She demonstrated both on her Instagram.
Knapp says at her studio, where high-fives or fist bumps were once expected after a grueling workout, instructors are switching to “air high-fives.” She hopes the new tradition will stick, even when our biggest health concern is the common cold.
“Maybe someone with a cold will feel more comfortable” declining a handshake, Knapp says.
After all, it’s far ruder to get someone sick than to make an etiquette faux pas.
“Everyone’s looking for any little way to protect themselves,” Knapp says. “As soon as you start talking about it, there’s nothing awkward whatsoever.”
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