Editorial: Staying safe while handling groceries
Photo Credit by Photoman via pixabay.com.
By James Gilbert, Editor-in-Chief
COVID-19 has many confused as to how to protect themselves while trying to maintain healthy livelihoods. As many states have enforced shelter-in-place orders, now the only places people can travel to are to grocery stores, work, and, in some places, outside to exercise, all as long as social distancing is practiced. However, many of us are not sure how to truly stay safe in public areas, especially since the COVID-19 virus can remain active longer than expected on commonly used surfaces. Gloves, unless changed often, are not as useful as people believe them to be. The same rule applies to masks. They must be changed often, and the front of the mask should not be touched, just as the eyes, nose, and mouth should also not be touched unless your hands are clean.
These rules have been widely emphasized. However, I, as well as others who reside in my public sphere, wonder how to stay safe, specifically while shopping. When I go shopping for food or other necessities, I become slightly anxious about whether someone who has been exposed to or is carrying the coronavirus might have left traces of it on the products. I assume that stores do not require their employees to disinfect their stock and shelves but instead provide sanitizing stations to allow consumers to practice proper prevention themselves. This leaves too much room for human error, so the question must be asked: how can we as a society level up our prevention skills?
There has been no data that shows COVID-19 spreads by consuming food. New research shows that it is possible for COVID-19 to survive on some surfaces for up to 72 hours. Specifically, COVID-19 can remain viable on plastic and stainless steel for up to 72 hours, whereas the virus’s life span only lasts up to 24 hours on cardboard. However, it is not one-hundred percent clear as to what role packaging plays regarding spreading and transmitting the virus. The virus slowly becomes inactive at room temperatures, with a half-life around eight hours. If worried about the status of food packaging, stay safe and always wipe down the package with a disinfectant and then wash and sanitize your hands.
Always leave children and other family members at home and bring your own hand sanitizer and wipes.
Make a list before grocery shopping, which allows you to enter and exit any store as quickly as possible. Clean the handle of the grocery cart with a sanitizing wipe. Keep your hands off personal items (such as your phone, purse, or bag) when shopping and only touch items you plan to purchase. Do not touch your face.
When checking out, use cashless items, if possible, to prevent the spreading of the virus. If you need to use cash, wash or sanitize your hands soon afterward. If you are going cashless, make sure to wipe down all credit, debit and gift cards before and after using them.
In addition, always sanitize your hands as the final step before entering any vehicle. It’s important to not contaminate your door handle, steering wheel, or any personal items whatsoever.
Always wash your hands when entering the home. Clean any food (produce) that may have been touched by others, as well. When washing food, the FDA advises to only use cold water rather than using soap to sterilize fruits and vegetables. Soap is not designed for food as it can cause nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.
Wipe down all nonporous surfaces — glass, cans, plastic, etc. — with disinfectant wipes. Many people recommend wiping cardboard boxes and packaging as well.
It has also become an environmentally popular choice for shoppers to use canvas and other reusable bags. If they are washed regularly, they are a good, sustainable choice. After putting groceries away, however, make sure to wash and/or sanitize your hands and clean the bags before reusing. If you receive plastic bags which have been handled by others, this is not the best of times to reuse them since they may also carry live virus.
Also, after putting away your groceries, be sure to disinfect your countertops or wherever your grocery bags sat before emptying.
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