It’s a scary time to be alive. Especially so if you or someone you love has a preexisting condition that may predispose you or them to a severe or seven deadly encounter with COVID-19. When going out for basic supplies, the smallest rogue coughs or sniffles are cause for concern. And then there’s the added complication of asymptomatic spreaders — people who don’t look or act sick but are actively shedding the virus. How do we stay stocked up on the basics without risking our lives?
The first step is to limit exposure by making visits to the store as brief and infrequent as possible. Plan carefully, having a shopping list ready before leaving to minimize time spent debating. Consider organizing the list according to the supermarket’s setup to minimize missed items and back-and-forth action through the store. The FDA recommends shopping for two weeks worth of food and supplies, leaving plenty for everyone else to get their fair share.
Wear a cloth face mask whenever you’re in public. If you can’t buy a mask, you can make one using materials from around the house. Avoid any business that looks crowded and stay at least 6 feet away from other people at all times. Many tons have compiled lists of businesses that are forcing patrons to wear masks and enforcing safety measures. See if you can find one of these lists and close to patronize these establishments. Take hand sanitizer to use during shopping, and remember not to touch your face.
It’s really hard to say how many people may have touched the same shopping cart, or what germs may have settled on the cart from the air, but it’s safe to assume other people’s germs are all over it. Wipe it down with an EPA-approved sanitizing wipe before using it. Bringing a stash with you might be a good idea in case there’s nothing available at the entrance. Some stores are spraying down their carts, too, so it may be helpful to note which places are taking these extra precautions to keep their patrons safe as it may be indicative of a larger plan to keep the store itself clean and snitzed, too.
Limiting contact with items might help limit what gets tracked back to your home. Recent reports have determined the coronavirus can survive on cardboard for about a day, and on plastic surfaces for up to 3 days. Other studies indicate that it might be able to survive even longer than that. In light of that, try to keep all physical interaction, even with food items, to a minimum. You can do this by knowing what you want ahead of time and choosing before picking an item up to put it in your cart.
With the idea in mind that the virus can survive on surfaces for varying lengths of time, cleaning and treating food and sundries makes sense. Authorities recommend against taking any drastic measures, but wiping down jars and boxes before putting them away might not be out of line. Remember that viral load (accumulation) seems to have some bearing on the severity of the infection a person contracts. So limiting exposure at all times may be key.
Don’t use harsh cleaners on produce, which may absorb them and make your food toxic. Instead, rinse with clean water and use a scrub brush when you can. Remember that plain soapy water breaks the bond of the virus and allows it to be washed away. Set aside potentially porous packages for a few days or repackage products instead of attempting to rinse or wipe them down.
After you’re finished with the groceries and you’ve discarded external packaging, disinfect surfaces and wash your hands. Just in case, you might consider taking the extra steps of hopping in the shower and changing your clothes. Again, limiting the viral load is key and particles from the air can settle on clothing and travel into your home.
Going out around other people entails some risk, but there are simple steps that can help make the adventure less of an adventure and more of a simple task. Be prepared to protect yourself by choosing where you go and wearing a mask, and don’t take any unnecessary risks. Shopping safely is all about awareness and preparedness.
Copyright 2020, Wellness.com