How to Shop for Food Safely During the Coronavirus Pandemic
In the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, grocery stores remain open as an essential service. We all need to continue to buy food, but with the spread of coronavirus simply going to the grocery store can feel challenging and stressful.
Understanding the latest information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO) can help you feel more prepared to shop for food and safely bring it home.
Is It Safe to Go Grocery Shopping?
As coronavirus spreads, public places like grocery stores have an increased risk; you’re much more likely to be exposed to the virus when you are around a lot of people.
According to the WHO, coronavirus can spread through close personal contact with others and by touching something that has the virus on it. And in many cases, people who may not have any visible symptoms can still spread the virus.
If you’re able to use a grocery delivery service, you will greatly reduce your exposure by not spending time in the store with others. But if you do need to go shopping, it’s best to limit your trips, avoid crowds, keep a safe distance between yourself and others, and wash your hands as soon as you come home.
Strategies to Shop Safely
Social distancing and hand hygiene are of the utmost importance. Here are some tips to help you shop safely at the grocery store:
- Shop less often. Aim for one large grocery shopping trip each week — or if possible, once every two weeks. In between, use what you have and plan out your next shopping list. Now is not the time to run to the store for one or two items.
- Shop at off-peak hours. Do your shopping when stores are less crowded, such as early in the morning or later in the evening.
- Shop alone. The fewer people in your home potentially exposed to coronavirus at the grocery store, the better.
- Bring disinfectant wipes. Use them to wipe down frequently touched surfaces such as shopping cart handles and the checkout area.
- Use hand sanitizer. In case the store does not provide any, bring a pocket-sized bottle to use throughout the trip, such as after checking out or after putting groceries in your car.
- Keep your distance from others. If an aisle is crowded, skip it; go to another one and come back when there are fewer people.
- Touch as little as possible. Only touch things you’re going to buy. Don’t handle items and then put them back.
- Pay with a credit card, not cash. It’s best to limit handling paper money and change right now. If possible, use touchless phone apps for payment to completely avoid touching the credit card devices.
- Wear a face covering. The CDC recommends wearing a cloth face covering in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain (including grocery stores and pharmacies).
Store Safety Measures to Look For
When you’re going into a grocery store, here are a few signs that the store is taking safety seriously:
- Cashiers sanitize the checkout conveyor belts and payment keypads between customers
- Checkout lines have taped markings on the floor to keep customers 6 feet apart
- Every other checkout lane is closed, to create more distancing space between people
- Store staff is wearing protection, such as gloves or masks, and/or using hand sanitizer
- The store isn’t crowded with shoppers (some stores have begun to limit the number of shoppers allowed in at one time)
If the store is too crowded, or you don’t see any safety steps being taken, try another store. Or come back at a time when there are fewer people shopping.
Special Shopping Times for High-Risk Customers
Some grocery stores are now offering special shopping hours for people at higher risk of coronavirus exposure, such as older adults and those with underlying health problems. If you fall into one of these categories, try to shop during hours when the store is likely to be less crowded.
Should You Wear a Mask in the Store?
The CDC now recommends wearing cloth face coverings in public where social distancing is harder to do (including grocery stores) and especially in areas when coronavirus is spreading significantly. You can find online tutorials for how to make a cloth mask, including options that don’t require sewing. Surgeon General Dr. Jerome Adams even created a video on how to make your own.
When you wear a mask, be aware that the same basic safety rules still apply. It’s important to not touch your face. Once your mask is on, you shouldn’t constantly adjust it. And you should always wash your hands thoroughly after taking it off.
If you have paper masks on hand, follow the WHO’s guidance on how to safely put on, use, take off and dispose of them. For reusable cloth masks, follow the CDC’s guidelines. Wash them routinely in the washing machine.
Should You Wear Gloves When Shopping?
Some people may feel safer wearing disposable gloves at the grocery store. But the CDC emphasizes that gloves are not a substitute for washing your hands or using an alcohol-based sanitizer.
It’s important to understand that if you touch a contaminated surface with your gloves, they are now contaminated. If you then touch your face with the gloves, it’s possible for the virus to get into your body. Still, some people feel that wearing gloves actually helps remind them not to touch their face.
Whether you choose to use gloves or not, hand-washing is still one of the best ways to protect yourself from contracting coronavirus and spreading it to others. Sanitize your hands before getting in your car. Always wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water for at least 20 seconds when you get home from the store. Wash them again after unpacking your groceries.
Getting Groceries Delivered
Some people are choosing to shop online or through apps and have their food delivered. This tends to be more expensive. But if you can afford it, it’s a good option. Most services now offer no-contact delivery, where they leave the groceries at your door.
Just be aware that since there’s a high demand for this service right now, the wait times can be long. There’s also no guarantee that the store will have everything on your list.
Do You Need to Sanitize Groceries?
It is believed that COVID-19, like other coronaviruses, can live on surfaces — but for how long is not clear. One study found that coronavirus could still be found on different surfaces such as plastic, metal and cardboard for a few hours up to several days. For more information, see our related blog post here.
If you have fruit or vegetables packaged in plastic containers, open them and empty the contents into a colander for rinsing. Then discard the plastic container. Wash your hands after touching the plastic container, and then clean your produce as you normally would. Wash your hands thoroughly again after cleaning your produce. And clean all kitchen surfaces — sinks, faucets, countertops — often.
We’re Here for You
Information around coronavirus is changing frequently, but AdventHealth is committed to providing the latest information to keep you and your family healthy. To stay up-to-date on coronavirus and find answers to frequently asked questions, visit our Coronavirus Resource Hub.