Whether it’s picking up a prescription at the pharmacy or buying groceries, running even the simplest everyday errands has become a daunting process since the coronavirus pandemic radically shifted daily life. While we’re all doing our part to avoid unnecessary trips out of the house, some purchases can’t wait. (When your kid needs antacid, your kid needs antacid.)
There are several simple and proactive steps you can take in order to get necessary shopping done while keeping yourself—and others—as safe as possible. Here are seven do’s and don’ts that’ll help you do your shopping safely during the coronavirus pandemic.
DON’T Go Shopping If You’re Feeling Sick
“Think of others and do not go shopping if you feel sick,” says pediatric infectious disease physician Dr. Chad Sanborn, M.D., of KIDZ Medical Services. “This includes having a fever, cough, sore throat, or nasal congestion.”
Remember: Person-to-person transmission of the coronavirus typically occurs as a result of close exposure to an infected person (namely the respiratory droplets produced when they speak, cough, or sneeze). So if you’re experiencing any symptoms (even if unconfirmed), stay home.
DO Make A List Of Exactly What You Need
Pre-pandemic, you might have spent a little extra time perusing the new display of plant-based protein bars at the store. Now is not the time to dilly-dally, though.
“Create a shopping list organized by store sections, and do not browse the store by chance or out of boredom,” says Dr. Stacy Mobley, N.M.D., M.P.H. “Your goal is to get in and out of any public area.”
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Following this practice will streamline your shopping experience, minimizing the number of people you encounter and getting you out of the store as quickly as possible.
If you only have one or two items you need, make sure to commit them to memory.
DO Opt For Delivery Or Contact-Free Pick-Up, When Possible
Take advantage of the free delivery or contact-free curbside pick-up that many stores and restaurants are currently offering. (The Vitamin Shoppe offers contact-free curbside pick-up at all stores—just choose “In-Store Pick-Up” when you order online.)
“Curbside pick-up and delivery are great options during this pandemic,” says Sanborn. “If you can avoid going into a store, you decrease your exposure to others who might be sick. You also avoid exposing other shoppers and store employees should you be asymptomatically infected.”
DO shop during off-hours or senior hours, if applicable.
For a safer shopping experience, many grocery chains have implemented seniors-only shopping hours. For everyone else, do your shopping at off-peak times.
“The fewer people you’re around, the less likely you are to become ill while out shopping,” Sanborn says. Not only is it good sense to avoid large crowds, but fewer people also means shorter lines, so you can get in and out of the store ASAP.
DO Wear A Face Mask
The CDC recently recommended that everyone wear face coverings to help slow the spread of coronavirus. This guideline helps prevent asymptomatic or pre-symptomatic individuals from spreading the virus.
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Still, even while wearing a face mask, the CDC recommends remaining at least six-feet away from others throughout your shopping trip.
DO Sanitize Your Hands While Shopping—And Wash Them After Unloading At Home
“When shopping, we touch a lot of objects and products on the shelves that other people may have touched,” says Sanborn. “Using alcohol-based hand sanitizer while shopping and after you finish is helpful.” He also recommends wiping your shopping cart or basket down with sanitizing wipes.
The Cleveland Clinic recommends sanitizing your hands when you transition to your car (or other means of transportation). Then, upon returning home, wash your hands as soon as possible for at least 20 seconds, suggests Sanborn.
DON’T Worry About Disinfecting Your Groceries Once Home
According to Cornell’s Institute for Food Safety, “Currently, there is no evidence to support transmission of COVID-19 associated with any type of food.” The CDC also states, “In general, because of poor survivability of these coronaviruses on surfaces, there is likely very low risk of spread from food products or packaging.”
Given that, disinfecting your groceries may be an unnecessary step. In fact, the CDC’s guidelines on what you can do to reduce the risk of coronavirus spread do not recommend disinfecting your groceries.
Cornell does, however, recommend taking careful measures while cooking—like washing your hands before handling food, after cooking, and before eating. They also recommend cleaning food prep surfaces (like the sink, utensils, and cutting boards) and ensuring that those displaying any symptoms of illness do not prepare food.
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