The New York Daily News reports that the Occupy Wall Street protesters of New York City—the most hygienically sound municipality in all of North America—need to start using hand sanitizer if they wish to avoid succumbing to infection and disease-death. (The same paper once reported that hand sanitizer is a lie, but don't let that stop you from using it.)
The latest OWS-related health warnings emerge from the observations of Mike Bloomberg, a mayor and epidemiologist who stopped at the Park and looked at the protesters on Wednesday night. Bloomberg is confident that during his visit he spotted the Bubonic Plague himself trying to go incognito by playing in the drum circle. The memory stayed with him.
Not that any one's identified a specific health threat down at Zuccotti ... YET. "There is no reason to believe anything is about to happen in terms of widespread illness," Irwin Redlener of Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health tells the New York Daily News, "but the mayor is right to be concerned about that." Hand-washing stations and port-a-potties could help reduce the risk of infections, he adds. "We are concerned about unsanitary conditions because it's important to prevent the development and spread of intestinal infections."
Installing some toilets and sinks at Zuccotti is a great idea. Right now protesters have to travel to local fast-food restaurants to Use The Facilities. (The outliers among them have to poop on cop cars.) With amenities right there in the park, they'd stop using those fine dining establishments' Facilities so much. The protesters have their own clean-up crews who go around sweeping and cleaning, and they could probably be counted on to manage the port-a-potties. It would be a win-win.
But suggesting that conditions at OWS pose health concerns any graver than any other corner of town remains a misguided approach. NYC is full of germs and germ carriers. People cough on you, they cough on the poles you hold onto in the subway cars, they cough on your food, they are slobs. There are piles of garbage lying all around. And there are rats in the craziest places. Not even Rudy Guiliani, with all his reparative and rehabilitative efforts, could eliminate all of the coughing, or the germs and the rats. "If you don't like germs and rats then you don't like New York City" is an old marketing slogan that somebody came up with once, I heard it somewhere.
It would be funny if Bloomberg were 100 percent wrong, and Zuccotti Park had become the most sanitary corner in all of the town because of OWS's hard-working volunteer cleaners and their brooms. Oh, and because they're already secretly using hand sanitizer, even though that stuff doesn't really work.
[NYDN. Image of a protester lying on the dirty, filthy, plague-covered ground of Zuccotti Park via AP]