COVID-19 High School student female with protective mask back to school after coronavirus pandemic

A recent survey of high school students finds 58 percent are nervous about returning to school in person due to COVID-19.

The findings come from the Healthy Handwashing Survey conducted by Bradley Corporation. The online survey of 1,050 high school students ages 14 to 18 was executed Aug. 20 to 21. 

According to the survey, the level of concern is highest among students who live in the Northeast while those in the Midwest are the least concerned. The survey also found 48 percent of high school students are worried they won’t have enough time to wash their hands during the school day. In fact, 55 percent are now washing their hands six or more times a day compared to just 25 percent who were washing that frequently prior to the outbreak. The majority of students (73 percent) predict they’re likely to maintain their current handwashing habits after the COVID-19 outbreak has passed.

Handwashing Smarts

Right now, students’ handwashing IQ is high. Mostly all (94 percent) believe it is important to wash their hands to protect themselves from COVID-19 and 76 percent correctly believe washing their hands with soap and water is more effective at removing germs than using hand sanitizer.

In addition to washing their hands, students are taking other actions to stay safe. 67% are wearing a face mask, 57% are staying at home more than usual and 40% are practicing social distancing in response to the virus.

Overall, the survey found that female students are more concerned about germs than their male counterparts and are stepping up their safety precautions. A higher percentage of females are: washing their hands more frequently throughout the day; washing their hands after touching something from outside their home; washing their hands after returning from a trip outside their home; and wearing a face mask.

Fearing Germs

In a sign of the times, nearly four-out-of-five high schoolers say they’ve become more germ conscious. Within the school building, the top three places they’re most concerned about coming into contact with germs are: school restrooms (63 percent); classrooms (50 percent); and the cafeteria (42 percent).

When it comes to their school restrooms, students barely give them a passing grade. Half of students rate their facilities as poor or fair while only six percent describe them as excellent. Students’ top wish list items are: cleaner restrooms that are stocked more frequently with soap, paper towels and toilet paper and restrooms where everything is touchless. In fact, 76 percent believe it’s extremely or very important that school restrooms have touchless fixtures.

“As the school year gets underway, it’s positive to learn that students have embraced a higher standard of hand hygiene,” says Jon Dommisse, director of strategy and corporate development for Bradley Corp. “Schools can support students’ elevated handwashing by providing adequate handwashing breaks, clean and well-stocked restrooms, and employing touchless handwashing features in washrooms.”

For more than a decade, Bradley Corporation has been conducting its Healthy Handwashing Survey. This August, in response to COVID-19, the company executed a back-to-school survey with 1,050 high school students. The student version of the Healthy Handwashing Survey was balanced to the U.S. Census on the basis of gender (51% female, 47% male and 2% other) and U.S. region (Northeast, South, Midwest and West).