This post will attempt to answer the following question:

  1. How do I make sure not to get infected when I go to the grocery store?
  2. How do I ensure that I don’t bring home coronavirus with the groceries?

Most states have now instituted very intense restrictions on movement and closed down just about every establishment in town. For obvious reasons, however, supermarkets have been an exception (what good is it to avoid coronavirus if you end up starving to death?). This means that most of us are going to the grocery store unless we are on strict quarantine or isolation and potentially spreading the virus around. In theory, if someone with COVID-19 sneezed, coughed, or breathed infected respiratory droplets onto a shopping cart or other hard surface and an uninfected person touched those respiratory droplets and then touched their face, the uninfected person could become infected and may get sick. There is also the possibility (albeit controversial) that the virus may hang in the air a bit as well. This is especially concerning if you consider what I wrote yesterday about the great number of asymptomatic people who could be spreading the virus around without them or anyone knowing.

This creates a quandry. You’ve got to go to the grocery store to not starve on the one hand but the store could be coated in virus on the other. So what do you do? Here are some tips I have collected from various reputable sources most of which are common sense but some you may have not considered:

  1. Shop at low volume times – early morning or late at night. If you are elderly many grocery stores have specified times just for senior citizens.
  2. Have a plan. If you make a list you can get through the store faster. Less time in the store means less risk of exposure.
  3. Wipe down the cart or basket handle. This one should be obvious and most stores have cart wipes available. If not you can rub some of your hand sanitizer on the cart.
  4. Don’t touch your face. This is also true of other places that people are allowed to go such as the pharmacy. It’s also very difficult.
  5. Try to use Apple or Samsung Pay so you can pay without touching the credit card reader.
  6. And, of course, sanitize your hands – a lot.

This will help keep you from getting sick in the store but what about the stuff you bring home? Keep in mind, the grocery store staff is encountering dozens of people a day all of whom may be infected and they may transmit the virus to your items. Before you panic it is important to know that, as the CDC reports, COVID-19 isn’t known to be transmitted through food. This means you don’t need to change your habits with respect to pre-packaged foods, grab-and-go meals, and fresh produce (washed as recommended below). The food itself is safe but but the packaging may pose a small risk.  Below are some suggestions to stay safe which would also apply to delivered groceries.

  1. When you get home stack the bags of groceries on the porch and then bring them in one bag at a time. Unpack the bag and, if you can, spray down the items with disinfectant after throwing away the bag.
  2. To clean produce, clean your sink with disinfectant and then fill it with dish soap and warm water. Scrub fruits and vegetables for 20 seconds and then rinse.
  3. After you’ve put your groceries away, wash your counters and any other surfaces you’ve touched.
  4. Wash your hands before eating or touching your face.
  5. Reusable grocery bags should be put in the washing machine immediately after every trip to the store if they are cloth. If they are plastic you should clean them with disinfectant.

The above recommendations are primarily for items that are going to be used in the ensuing 72 hours. Remember that the virus only lives on metal and hard plastic for about 72 hours and cardboard for about 24 hours. What this means is that you can be less strict on items that you will not be using for 3 days but, of course, it can’t hurt to clean these items as well.

All of this, of course, is a huge pain, but so is everything else these days. Some of it also may be overkill, but in these scary times extra cleaning can’t hurt and may lessen some of your anxiety. The silver lining is that we might all lose some weight over the next few months since it’s such a pain to get food. It’s always important to look on the bright side. Bon apetit!

One thought on “How to stay safe at the grocery store.

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