Going on a Grocery Run? Protect Yourself From Coronavirus With These Safety Precautions
Although the main mode of transmission of the new coronavirus disease, officially known as COVID-19, is through respiratory droplets from an infected person, experts think that the virus can also spread when you touch an infected object or surface and then touch your mouth, nose, or possibly your eyes.
To play it safe, the CDC recommends thoroughly washing your hands with soap and water or hand sanitizer that has at least 60% alcohol; especially if you touched potentially contaminated items such as shopping carts or the credit card keypad upon checkout when shopping for groceries.
This can be a challenge because most of us need to go to the grocery to stock up on essentials while on shelter-at-home orders. However, the big question that comes to mind is what should we do as precautionary measures when doing a grocery run. In addition to the latest guidelines from the CDC, here are safety precautions recommended by infectious disease doctors and epidemiologists.
Use a Face Mask
The CDC recommends wearing a face mask or cloth face covering when in a public space where social distancing may be quite difficult, like in grocery stores. However, you need to make sure that you’re wearing it as effectively as possible.
Dr. Hedberg says that it’s more for community protection rather than personal protection. He added that although it’s not a perfect barrier, it can enhance the other precautions we’ve been practicing if it lessens the amount of virus that is put into the air by a half or a third.
Avoid Touching Your Face
We tend to touch a lot of things when out in the grocery store—like the shopping cart handle, the products you pick up, and finally the cash or credit card machine. That’s even the bare minimum. Since touching is unavoidable, keeping your hands away from your face until you can finally wash them can help avoid infection through a contaminated surface.
If this is too tough to follow, Hedberg advises using your nondominant hand whenever possible. If you unconsciously touch your face, you would likely use your dominant one.
Wipe Down The Shopping Cart Handle
Dr. Joshua G. Petrie of the Univerity of Michigan School of Public Health Department of Epidemiology states that this step is not necessary if you already apply the other safety precautions like washing your hands and not touching your face. However, doing this doesn’t hurt either. Many grocery stores provide disinfectant wipes by the cart area, but you can also bring along your own.
Stay a Safe Distance From Other People
According to the CDC, keeping at least a 6-foot distance from the next person while you’re out in public can help in the prevention of the disease. It’s wise to shop during nonpeak hours so you won’t have to struggle in social distancing. Also, try to steer clear from a person who’s coughing or sneezing. A lot of grocery stores now have markings to guide shoppers on where to position when in a queue, so make sure to follow it.
You Don’t Have to Wear Disposable Gloves
Although the protective barrier may seem helpful, experts believe that it’s not necessary as long as you follow the other precautions. Hedberg says that the virus has to be able to get into the respiratory tract to cause an infection. You may even risk yourself if you take it off improperly.
Skip The Unnecessary Safety Steps
Even if you reach the farthest product at the back of the shelf or wipe down each and every item you put into the cart, it won’t change the fact that you or someone else will still touch them to place inside the bag. It will just increase the time you spend on your grocery trip, therefore lengthening your potential exposure to the virus. Not touching your face before washing or sanitizing your hands can suffice.
Use Self-Checkout If You Can
Since social distancing is the key to avoiding transmission, using the self-checkout can benefit you and the cashier. It can reduce your interaction with other people, and the cashier will have one less person to come in close contact with. Hedberg says that employees who interact with hundreds of customers probably have a greater health risk.
Wash Your Hands
The first thing you should do when you come home is to wash your hands properly. You can unload and put away your groceries like how you normally would then proper handwashing right after. A lot of people overthink this step. Experts believe that it’s unnecessary to wipe down every item you bought. Just wash your hands before preparing your meal using the items you purchased and before eating.
Make Sure to Wash Produce
Wash your fresh fruits and vegetables like normal, according to experts. However, make sure to wash your hands before and after you do it. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) says that you can get rid of 90 to 99 percent of microbes on most produce just by rinsing them with running water while rubbing it with your hands.
Although, if it makes you feel better to do extra steps, then it’s fine too. Better safe than sorry, right?
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