In South Florida, The Miami Kiss is everything. That pervasive smooch is how we greet friends and family, co-workers and strangers, people we like and people we don’t.
But this year’s flu season has been brutal. The latest report from the Center for Disease Control says that 53 children have now died because of the flu, with 16 more deaths since the last report. And there are several more weeks of flu season (it usually runs through March).
So it’s time. We must ban The Miami Kiss, effective immediately.
Now, we’re not crazy. We’re not saying this should be a lifetime ban (although some etiquette experts suggest otherwise). We know getting people in Miami to stop kissing each other is as difficult as getting the drivers down here to use turn signals.
But last week, acting CDC director Dr. Anne Schuchat said in a briefing that the “latest tracking data indicate flu activity is still high and widespread.”
That’s enough for us. We have got to stop kissing each other, Miami. At least for now. Too many germs flying around. Nobody wants to use up their sick days this early in the year, and getting stuck in the hospital is nobody’s idea of fun.
Here’s the thing, though: The Miami Kiss isn’t the only greeting that spreads germs.
“Most doctors agree that shaking hands is an even surer way of catching someone else’s germs,” says etiquette expert Yolanda Salas, the director and co-founder of Etiqueta Excellence. “So, yes, put The Miami Kiss off during the flu season, but remember to wash your hands even more frequently than usual.”
The CDC urges 20 seconds of washing. Salas suggests using the trick we teach children: Wash them for as long as it takes to sing the “Happy birthday” song.
But no matter how many germs a handshake spreads, The Miami Kiss spreads more. Here’s what the CDC says:
“People with flu can spread it to others up to about 6 feet away. Most experts think that flu viruses are spread mainly by droplets made when people with flu cough, sneeze or talk. These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs. Less often, a person might also get flu by touching a surface or object that has flu virus on it and then touching their own mouth or nose.”
So cover your mouth when you sneeze, preferably with your elbow, Miami. And please don’t kiss us. At least not until summer.