HOW CAN YOU SAFELY GROCERY SHOP IN THE TIME OF CORONA VIRUS?
As coronavirus spreads globally, grocery shopping has become one of the most anxiety-producing yet necessary activities for millions of people around the world.
Heading to the food stall to buy essential supplies is the only time many people leave their homes. Prepping for the trip can feel overwhelming: Should you wear gloves or a mask? Should you wipe down that tomato? What’s the safest way to pay?
Here’s what to know.
WHAT ARE THE BEST WAYS TO PRACTICE SOCIAL DISTANCING AT THE STORE?
Your primary concern while shopping should be the risk of contracting the virus from other people, not from food or surfaces in the store.
While there’s a chance the virus could be transmitted on a surface, you’re most likely to get this from another person.
- Try to maintain a distance of at least six feet from other people.
- Some stores are already enforcing social distancing, such as requiring people to stand six feet apart in line or only allowing a certain number of customers in at once. You want to pick a store that’s really paying attention and making it safer for customers to go in.
- As regulations suggest, leave your kids and other family members at home. It’s probably safest if only one person in each household does all the shopping, not only because it lowers the household’s exposure but also because it reduces the total number of people in stores.
WHAT ARE THE BEST WAYS TO SAFELY TOUCH THINGS IN THE STORE?
While you should be most concerned about the other people in the store, the virus can also live on surfaces.
It’s possible someone who is infected coughs and droplets containing the virus land on a surface that you then touch. Studies found that the virus could live for two to three days on plastic and stainless steel, up to 24 hours on cardboard, and up to four hours on copper.
It is recommended to clean your shopping cart or basket – specifically the handles and other surface areas – either with their own disinfectant wipes or wipes provided by the store (many stores have already started providing wipes near the carts.
- Always bring along your hand sanitizer to the store and use it after every time you come in contact with “high touch surfaces”.
- Always assume that the virus has gotten on surfaces around the store, so try to touch as few things as possible, and avoid touching your nose, face and mouth.
- Use a a paper shopping list, rather than your phone, while you’re in the store. You can throw the list away when you’re done, and it doesn’t risk transferring viral particles to your phone.
- Uses hand sanitizer the moment you leave the store—especially before you get in the car and touch the steering wheel.
- Then, make sure to wash your hands as soon as you can with soap and water “for at least 20 seconds before and after shopping.”
SHOULD YOU WEAR A MASK OR GLOVES TO THE STORE?
If you’re sick and must leave your house—which experts strongly advise against—you should wear a mask to stop the spread of infectious droplets.
- If you’re not sick, personal protective equipment like gloves or masks can give people “a false sense of security”.
- You might be less determined to not touch your face or wash your hands, however you may also have a higher risk of exposing yourself to something if you take the gloves and mask off wrong.
- While gloves stop the virus from getting on your skin, they don’t stop you from touching the cart handle then touching your face, which could transmit the virus.
- The best thing you can do to protect yourself is not touch your face, use hand sanitizer and wash your hands as soon as possible.
HOW CAN YOU PAY SAFELY?
You want to minimize your contact with other people as much as possible.
- If you can go cashless, go cashless. Something like a pay app, is a good option because you don’t have to exchange your credit card.
- If you don’t have a mobile payment app, the next best option is a credit or debit card that’s “wiped clean both before and after use.”
- If you have to use cash, you should “thoroughly wash your hands after handling it.”
- Try to keep as much distance as possible between yourself and the cashier. It’s less about the surfaces and more about how close in contact you are with the people. Cashiers don’t have the freedom to move around like shoppers do, so be mindful to make space for them, she adds.
SHOULD YOU WIPE DOWN ALL THE ITEMS WHEN YOU GET HOME?
You want to keep those cleaning supplies for when you really need them.
- Certain containers, like cardboard boxes, also can’t be decontaminated with just a wipe because they’re porous. Instead try prioritizing using your cleaning supplies on “high touch surfaces,” like shopping cart handles.
- Be careful to not wipe hazardous chemicals on food. Using bleach on packaging materials or foods may create more problems than it could theoretically solve.
- Currently there is no evidence to support transmission of COVID-19 associated with food or food packaging. However, you should make sure to wash their hands as soon as they get home, especially before eating or preparing food. If soap and water are not available, use hand sanitizer with at like 60% alcohol.
- Be sure to wash your fruits and vegetables like you normally would.
- Once you’ve unpacked your groceries, you should clean your hands again, and then clean your kitchen surfaces, including countertops, cabinet handles, and light switches.
WHEN IS THE BEST TIME TO VISIT THE GROCERY STORE?
Many stores have set aside certain hours just for high-risk individuals, such as senior citizens or people who are immunocompromised.
- You should respect those hours, which are meant to protect vulnerable individuals who have no other option but to go to the store.
- If you belong to this high-risk category, look up what stores around you have these special hours. When possible, have friends or family go to the store for you.
- If you’re not in a high-risk category, consider shopping at “off-peak hours” to avoid crowds. These times will depend on where you are. Early in the morning or late at night can often be less crowded.
HOW OFTEN SHOULD YOU GO GROCERY SHOPPING?
Go as infrequently as possible without resorting to hoarding behaviour. There is plenty of food in storage facilities around. Hoarding is unnecessary and risks taking supplies away from people who need them.
- In general, try go to the store once a week, or even every few weeks if that’s a financial option. Going as rarely as possible not only reduces your risk of exposure, but also helps reduce the number of people in the store.
- Eating well is a crucial component of staying healthy, even if getting that food can feel stressful.
- Every shopping outing has some risk – so grocery shop as infrequently as possible and practical.