Grocery shopping is one of the few things everyone is still doing in the time of COVID-19 social distancing. Whether you order online or shop in a store, you eventually come in contact with the food and toiletries — but “don’t drive yourself crazy disinfecting your groceries,” writes NPR’s Maria Godoy, citing virologists, infectious disease specialists, and food safety experts.
No matter what that family doctor in Michigan advised in his video, “all of the experts we spoke with say that disinfecting and hand-washing every last item in your grocery haul is really not necessary,” Godoy reports. “You might find it comforting to know that none of these experts are doing this themselves.” There’s a very small chance you could contract the coronavirus from touching a package then your face, but “the majority of transmission is probably going to be from respiratory droplets, which you’re exposed to when you’re around other people,” says Angela Rasmussen, a Columbia University virologist.
You should shop alone, avoid crowded stores, sanitize your cart, stay six feet from fellow shoppers, and get in and out of the store as quickly as possible, but your best bet to avoid contamination from the groceries themselves is washing your hands with soap and water after shopping, again after unpacking the groceries, and before preparing the food and eating. Gloves aren’t necessary at the store, but do wear a mask.
“Time is really on your side here,” said Dr. David Aronoff, director of the Division of Infectious Diseases at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. “After 24 hours, the vast majority of virus is no longer infectious,” and after 72 hours, there’s almost no trace of the virus on most surfaces. You can leave nonperishable food out for 24 hours before putting it away, though it’s good practice to wipe down countertops where you unpacked the groceries. Read more expert advice on how to pay, whether to change clothes, and other tips at NPR.
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