The obligatory COVID-19 blog post

Any blogger worth their salt now has to write a post about the novel COVID-19 virus, popularly known as coronavirus. I want to talk about the recommendations for handwashing issued by the Center for Disease Control (CDC).

Now, the CDC is recommending that we wash our hands frequently to avoid spreading infection from COVID-19 and other infectious diseases like the flu. I’m fine with that. According to the CDC, proper handwashing technique involves five steps. I’m fine with that, too. But in Step 3, the CDC instructs us to sing the “Happy Birthday” song twice so we make sure we wash for a full 20 seconds.

Ugh. I hate the “Happy Birthday” song. I don’t want to sing it once, let alone twice, let alone every time I wash my hands.

Fortunately, I have an alternative. Ginger, a UU religious educator in the Bay Area, found this, which was posted in a bathroom of a UU congregation:

Sign saying Wash, wash whoever you are...

“Wash, wash, whoever you are,
Wanderer, worshipper, lover of cleaning,
Rinsing the germs off is easy to do
Wash, yet again, wash.”
(with presumed apologies to Rumi and Coleman Barks)

If you sing “Wash, wash, whoever you are…” to Lynn Ungar’s tune in the UU hymnal Singing the Living Tradition (no. 188), at a reasonably quick tempo (about 144 bpm), it takes about 16-17 seconds to sing. Then you can repeat “Wash, yet again, wash” to make a full 20 seconds. Much better than the “Happy Birthday” song.

And there are still more songs you (and/or your children) can use to time your handwashing.

More than a decade ago, Dr. Robert Piper, retired professor of political science at UMass Dartmouth, demonstrated how you can sing the ABC song to time your handwashing. Since I trust retired professors of political science, that’s what I’ve been doing ever since.

Or, if you want to be religious, there’s a passage from sacred scripture that neatly fits the tune of the ABC Song (which is, by the way, a lovely folk tune immortalized by Mozart in K. 265) — I’m referring of course to the Mad Hatter’s poem in the holy writ of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland:

“Twinkle, twinkle, little bat!
How I wonder where you’re at!
Up above the world you fly,
Like a tea tray in the sky.
Twinkle, twinkle, little bat!
How I wonder where you’re at!

So you see, if you too hate the “Happy Birthday” song, you (and/or your children) now have 3 other options to time handwashing: “Wash, wash, whoever you are”; the ABC song; and “Twinkle, twinkle, little bat.”

Update: (1:12 p.m.) Ginger found yet another UU handwashing song online, which also lasts about 20 seconds:

“Come wash your hands with me
Come wash your hands with me
Come wash your hands with me,
So we can know peace of mind.
And I’ll bring you soap,
When soap is hard to find,
And I’ll wash my hands with you
So we can help humankind.”

3 thoughts on “The obligatory COVID-19 blog post”

  1. At home, we’ve been intoning “Space: the final frontier,” another sacred text which also comes in at about 20 seconds. Extra if you then launch into any Star Trek theme song. One should of course use the gender- and species-diverse version, ending with “To boldly go where no one has gone before.”

  2. That’s what Carol does, too. My problem is whenever I say those words, my pointer and middle fingers stick together, as do my ring and little fingers, and I’m worried my ears will get pointy.

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