Governor Northam ditches ties, citing infectious pathogen risk

Governor Northam ditches ties, citing infectious pathogen risk
Gov. Ralph Northam, pictured earlier this month, has been holding regular briefings on the spread of COVID-19 in Virginia and the state's response. (Source: Ned Oliver/Virginia Mercury)

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - Could wearing a tie increase your chances of catching COVID-19 novel coronavirus? As crazy as it sounds, doctors say there’s some real science to back it up.

Governor Ralph Northam started the collar conversation on Friday, when he said he had received some comments about his lack of neckties recently.

“Certainly nothing against our retail stores that sell clothing and especially neckties," Northam said. "But neckties actually harbor contagious pathogens.”

The governor went on to cite a 2004 study conducted at the New York Hospital Medical Center of Queens. The study collected and analyzed ties worn by physicians, physicians assistants, and medical students on the job and compared them to ties worn by security guards at the facility.

Cultures conducted on the ties determined that nearly half of the ties were contaminated with pathogens. The infected ties contained more than 8 times the number of organisms than ties worn by the security guards.

Medical experts say ties and other things that come into contact with your hands and face run a risk of harboring bacteria and other microorganisms.

“Anything, necklaces included, wedding rings, if we are cleaning our hands that can be a spot where things get lodged in under," Dr. Taison Bell, an attending at UVA Health explained. "These are all things that we need to think carefully about.”

Before you throw out all your neckwear, Bell says that steps can be taken to reduce your risk. Regular cleaning of ties and other accessories, along with good personal hygiene and frequent handwashing, can mitigate any potential contamination.

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