While most Americans are being told to stay at home to slow the spread of the coronavirus, it’s still necessary to get groceries — and for most of us, that means venturing out.
Supermarkets have implemented extra safety precautions and many are reserving specific hours to accommodate high risk populations. But it’s still a risky business, experts say.
Dr. Deborah Birx, a top White House medical expert on the coronavirus task force, emphasized Saturday that the next two weeks are crucially important to flatten the curve of the spread of COVID-19.
“This is not the moment to be going to the grocery store, not going to the pharmacy, but doing everything you can to keep your family and friends safe, and that means everybody doing the 6 feet social distancing, and washing your hands,” she advised, according to CNN.
But if you must venture into a grocery store, here are some tips to reduce your risk of infection, according to USA TODAY:
Choose the best time to go to the grocery store. If you are not one of the at-risk groups such as the elderly, immunocompromised or pregnant, stay away during those dedicated store hours to avoid increasing the danger to the most vulnerable. Shop when the store is less crowded — usually noon or early evening.
- Wear a mask. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advises everyone to wear a cloth mask in public to stop the spread of the disease. Ann Marie Pettis, president-elect of the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology, also advises shoppers to strictly follow safe distancing guidelines and wash the mask when you get home. Bring an alcohol-based sanitizer and disinfectant wipes to the store with you. And leave the kids at home, she suggests. They don’t always have the best hygiene habits and increase the number of people in the store.
- Pay with mobile apps, such as Apple Pay or Google Pay on your phone. Or use a credit card, especially those enabled for tap-and-pay. But some retailers still require customers to sign for touchless transactions, so make sure you wash your hands after touching the pad. Avoid currency as it harbors thousands of microbes,
- Make as few trips as possible to the grocery store. But that doesn’t mean emptying the shelves and hoarding, notes Lauren Sauer, director of operations for Johns Hopkins Office of Critical Event Preparedness and Response, in USA TODAY. She recommends having a grocery list to know exactly what you need to reduce time browsing. “When you are in the grocery store, you should touch only the items you plan to buy,” Sauer says.
- Take precautions bringing groceries home. Wash your hands immediately upon arrival and dispose of any plastic bags. Studies have shown that the virus can live on plastic for up to two or three days. Experts say it isn’t necessary to wipe down every item in your grocery bag but if you feel more comfortable, use a disinfecting wipe or a cloth saturated with alcohol to clean packaging.
- Use a food delivery service. These services are a lifesaver for those who are vulnerable and should not visit a grocery store in person. Request that your groceries be delivered curbside or left outside your door.
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