A top U.S. health official has advised the public to break a long-held greeting custom of shaking hands.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, a prominent member of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, explained his reasoning during a Tuesday interview with reporter Scott Thuman. The doctor said abstaining from hand-shaking was an important measure to prevent further spread of COVID-19, and insisted it should never be done again even after the threat is over. 

"As a society, just forget about shaking hands," Fauci told Thuman, Sinclair Broadcast Group's chief political correspondent. "We don't need to shake hands. We've got to break that custom. Because as a matter of fact, that is one of the major ways you can transmit a respiratory-borne illness."

Fauci also said that health crisis will be "embedded" into the public's collective conscious forever, and that he doesn't expect for things to "go back to normal" even after the pandemic runs its course.

"I think for a while, there's going to be clearly some attention to physical separation, but not to the extent where it’s as disruptive to the normal social and business type interactions. ... I think what we’re going to have embedded and imprinted in us forever is the realization that something as catastrophic as what the world is experiencing now can happen," he said.

Fauci, the longtime director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, went on to address the racial disparity in coronavirus deaths, particularly the high death rates among African Americans.

"When you look about the burden of disease—diabetes, hypertension, certain cancers, like prostate cancer—clearly there’s a disparity and a disproportionate burden among minorities, particularly African American minorities, so it’s not surprising to me at all that minority populations actually have a greater mortality rate," Fauci explained. He added: "Also, it is probably a disparate situation regarding access to medical care."

The World Health Organization has also provided guidelines that could help reduce COVID-19 transmission. The recommendations include frequent hand-washing, maintaining social distance, and using your elbow or a disposable tissue whenever you need to cough or sneeze.

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