This post will attempt to answer these questions:
- Can I trust that the packages I have received are Coronavirus free?
- What should I do to protect myself?
Since this saga started about 2 weeks ago, I have received countless questions about issues relating to the coronavirus. I am not an expert on infectious diseases nor do I claim to be an expert on this virus in particular. I’m not really giving you any information that you can’t get from another source. So why am I doing this you may ask. The answer is that people have been asking me tons of questions. Because of how this virus is scaring everyone, people want a bit more of a personal explanation of what’s happening to ease anxieties. I’d imagine most doctors have had to take on this role of surrogate expert. In a way, this is a main part of our job. People are feeling overwhelmed by the quantity and nebulousness of the information and want someone to explain things to them in laymen’s terms. That’s what I’m trying to do. It is my sincerest hope that it helps.
One of the questions I have been hearing a lot recently is about the safety of package and take out food deliveries. With fewer people going to the store, many are turning to Amazon and the like to fill their house with all the stuff that occupies our space and time in the internet age. As the comedian George Carlin has said, “A house is a place to put your stuff, while you go out and get more stuff”. In this case we’re not going out to get the stuff, but the message is the same.
All this stuff is coming to us having passed through the hands of multiple individuals raising concerns about transmission of the virus. To review, the main ways the virus is transmitted is by large droplets in the air getting on you. This is only an issue if you are within 6 feet of someone who is infected and is prevented by social distancing. The other main way it’s transmitted is by the fomite-to face route ( to review that read my previous post How is the coronavirus transmitted). A package would be via the fomite-to-face route.
This issue with Amazon and other delivery companies turns out to be a serious problem. The Daily Mail reported that Amazon workers had tested positive at 10 separate US warehouses. Since their packages are going out far and wide, the virus could be spread easily. Now before you panic and burn the packages, take a breath, put down the blow torch, and read further.
The virus lives for different periods of time on different surface types. A correspondence in the New England Journal of Medicine (you can access it here) discussed data on the survival rates depending on the type of surface it was found. The virus was viable for up to 72 hours on stainless steel and plastic which are the biggest concern, think door and appliance handles. On cardboard, however, there was no viable virus measured after 24 hours.
This means that you can still get packages from Amazon. It also means you can get your take out food and stuff from the stores as well you should just take the following steps:
- When you get the package from Amazon, take it out of the box and throw the box out.
- If you need the item immediately, disinfect it before opening it.
- If not, you can leave it for 24 hours and then open it.
- For food containers, take the food out of the packaging and throw the packaging away.
- Wash your hands before you eat (you should do this anyways).
This is all good news. Those Amazon packages can be a life line of needed supply reinforcements in the battle against childhood boredom. Take out is also the main nutritional source for many young urban types as well so don’t worry if there’s only an old can of beer and a tupperware based science experiment in the fridge, you can have Door Dash tonight. Bon Appetit!