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Sanitizing and safety at the grocery store

Grocery Store Safety During COVID-19

here's how to minimize your exposure

Considering the grocery store is one of the few places anyone can go right now, we need to be extra careful and keep products (and our hands) clean.

I mean think about how many hands touch the grocery cart handles. That’s gross to think about even when there isn’t a pandemic going on. So we rounded up a few tips on how to practice grocery store safety.

(And so you’re aware: a March 17 study in the New England Journal of Medicine found that the virus could live two to three days on plastic and stainless steel, up to 24 hours on cardboard and up to four hours on copper.)

Keep Your Distance

This may seem obvious since we have social distancing in place, but it’s worth reminding families that the rules go for the grocery store too.

Lauren Dobbs, a certified physician assistant who holds a master’s in medical science, is the director at large for the American Academy of Physician Assistants as well as an associate professor at the UNT Health Science Center. She says minimizing your chance of exposure is the most important thing you can do at the store.

So stay at least six feet away from others.

Clean Your Carts

Luckily, a lot of stores in DFW have staff members specifically helping out with this—but if your store doesn’t, grab a wipe and clean your cart. Dobbs also recommends avoiding other frequently touched surfaces and sanitizing your hands after you’re done with your cart.

Don’t Touch Everything

This may be a hard habit to break, as many people enjoy picking things up to look at them first before throwing it in the cart. But again: Minimize your exposure.

The more you touch, the more likely you are to get someone else’s germs (and you’re sharing yours as well). Dr. Christopher Gill of Boston University School of Public Health told Time magazine that “you should assume the virus has gotten on surfaces around the store, so try to touch as few things as possible.” (That includes your face, by the way.)

This applies even if you’re wearing gloves. And by the way: the CDC’s current recommendations say you shouldn’t wear gloves or a mask in public unless you’ve been exposed and/or have symptoms. (If that’s the case, please stay home.)

Dr. Lauren Sauer, an assistant professor of emergency medicine at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine told Time that if you’re using gloves and you’re not sick, it “can give people a ‘false sense of security.’” She added that when wearing gloves, you actually “have a higher risk of exposing yourself to something if you take the gloves off wrong.” Eek.

Say it again for those in the back: Minimize your exposure.

Wipe Your Groceries Down When You Get Home

“When you return home from the grocery store, clean items with a hard surface using a disinfectant wipe [and] wash your produce,” says Dobbs. (When it comes to produce, the FDA has tips on how best to wash them.) “[And make sure to] unpack your cleaning products first, and place them in a safe storage area.”

Dobbs recommends the American Cleaning Institute for a great resource on additional cleaning and safety tips—it even includes an educational activity sheet for children. Dobbs also highly suggests taking a look at packetsup.com to learn more.

Clean Your Countertops … Again

“Once you unpack your groceries, wash your hands and clean the countertop area where your groceries were sitting,” says Dobbs. Just as you should clean your groceries, clean where they were placed when you got home.

Wash Your Reusable Bags

Did you forget about those? Your reusable bags need to be cleaned as well. Dobbs recommends that after the groceries are put away, throw your reusable grocery bags in the laundry.

And if all of this is causing more stress about grocery shopping rather than creating some sense of control or peace, skip the lines and order online. (Just know, you may not get everything you order—trust me, it took me three tries to get some eggs.)

Image courtesy of iStock.