8 safety precautions for shopping during the Coronavirus outbreak

The majority of the United States, including where we have clinics in Arizona, North Carolina, and South Carolina currently, have stay-at-home orders in place to help flatten the curve. But there are a few exceptions including grocery shopping, going to the doctor or pharmacy, and getting gas.

But what is the safest way to go out during this pandemic when necessary? What should you do before, during, and after you go to the grocery store? What precautions should you take when pumping gas?

The following information is # pieces of advice for how to meet your household needs in a safe and healthy manner.

1) Disinfect your phone regularly and leave it in the car

According to a 2016 study, the average person touches their smartphone 2,617 times a day. In fact, numerous studies have found that smartphones carry microbial life such as bacteria and viruses, including COVID-19. In light of these facts, cleaning your touch screens and cases should be part of your disinfecting routine.

It’s fairly easy to clean your phone. While specific instructions may vary depending on your device, Apple advises the following for cleaning its smart devices:

  • Unplug your device
  • Use a soft, lint-free cloth
  • Avoid excessive wiping
  • Avoid spraying cleaners directly onto your device
  • Don’t allow moisture to get into any openings

If you have an unsealed case (not waterproof), make sure to take it off and clean it to as part of your routine. Apple recommends using 70 percent isopropyl alcohol wipes. Avoid aerosol sprays, bleaches, and abrasives as they could damage your phone. And, of course, keep liquids away from your device and don’t submerge it in any liquid.

Aim to clean your phone once or twice per day. If your case is leather or fabric, look up how to disinfect it with its manufacturer.

Now that your phone is clean, it’s important to keep it clean. While you’re in high traffic spaces where there might be a lot of people, like the grocery store, leave it in the car. Responding to those texts can wait while you’re shopping.

2) Go alone

If you can go to the store alone, do so. According to the director of the Division of Infectious Diseases at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, bringing the whole family not only crowds the aisles, but raises the entire household’s risk of infection too.

“If you have three people living together and all three people go to the store, even if all three people have a low risk of getting infected at an individual level, as a group they’ve tripled their risk,” says Aronoff.

So leave the wife or husband and kids at home and shop solo to reduce your entire family’s risk. If you have roommates, discuss a rotating shopping schedule.

3) Prepare your payment from the car

Contrary to popular belief, paper money is made of cotton rather than paper. Cash currency is exchanged very frequently and allows for the transfer of drug-resistant pathogens on a regular basis. It is best to be avoided during the Coronavirus pandemic.

If you have a no-touch payment method such as Apple Pay or Google Pay, that is ideal. These programs are very easy to sign up for and utilize. A card with a chip reader is sometimes also no-touch.

(For other forms of contactless payment, search for your manufacturer’s or bank’s contactless payment information.)

If you’re unsure if the store accepts contactless pay or if your card is going to require you to touch a keypad, take your card out of your wallet or purse, put it in your pocket by itself, and leave your wallet and purse in the car. When you get back to the car, sanitize your hands and the card.

3, 4, & 5) Wear a face mask, skip the gloves, and disinfect the cart

There has been some controversy about if a face mask helps or not. We wrote about it briefly at the beginning of this outbreak. Essentially, a face mask is great if you are already sick in order to not spread it to others. And because COVID-19 may be asymptomatic, wearing a face mask is good practice in public spaces to take care of your fellow humans.

That said, skip the gloves. Gloves only protect you from others if and only if you properly use them. They are intended to be discarded regularly and replaced. If you wear the same gloves every day, you are simply cross-contaminating everything you touch. It is far more effective to simply avoid touching your face especially at the store and to wash your hands or disinfect them afterwards.

You should still be careful about what you touch. For example, the cart handle at the grocery store is very high-touch. Many stores now provide wipes for this purpose, but you may want to bring your own just in case they are not available. Wipe down the top and bottom of the entire handle thoroughly before you shop.

6 & 7) Social distancing and shopping quickly

It’s best practice to look for stores that are limiting the number of shoppers allowed at the same time. While this might be frustrating to wait in line outside, it makes it far easier to keep a safe 6 feet of social distance both outside and inside the store. And bring a list to make it quicker.

Once you’re in the store, focus on finishing as quickly as possible. Keep your distance from others in aisles as they are not designed for social distancing. Remember to be respectful of others while shopping. If you have to wait a minute while someone finishes in an aisle so you can keep your distance from each other, do so. Or you can go to the next aisle come back in a few minutes.

Please especially take care of the essential workers as they interact with many people daily. Keep your distance for their sake while paying. If there’s plexiglass between the register and you, even better. If they offer self-checkout, that is best for you and them.

8) Back in the car? Disinfect

Your groceries are safely in the car, and you’re sitting at the wheel. Don’t touch your phone or keys yet. It’s time to disinfect!

Always have hand sanitizer and wipes in the car for this purpose. Use alcohol-based sanitizer that’s at least 60% alcohol. Wipe down your payment card. If you touched your keys or the wheel, go ahead and wipe those down too, both the front and back.

This applies at the gas pump as well. It’s not effective to disinfect the pump as there are just too many nooks and crannies. Simply pump your gas as usual, avoid touching your face, and disinfect your hands and card afterwards, then…

Go ahead and check your text messages and get back home to the family.

A few notes

There is some controversy whether to disinfect your groceries or not. According to NPR, the experts are not disinfecting their own groceries. Taking the above precautions is far more important and effective.

However, if you feel strongly about disinfecting your groceries:

  • Only use soap and water as other cleaners might contaminate your food
  • Fruits and veggies just need cold water scrub
  • You can simply leave your dry goods alone for 24 hours to disinfect them

If you prefer to wipe down your dry good packaging, again you should only use soap and water. It is effective and avoids contaminating your food with cleaning products.

Do be wary of refrigerated and frozen food packaging as the cold allows the virus to live longer. When you’re ready to cook cold food, simply remove it from the packaging, throw the packaging away, and wash your hands before cooking.

In conclusion, it really comes down to the same advice you’ve heard over and over when you have to go out for essentials: wash your hands, don’t touch your face, and practice social distancing.

And clean your phone!

[backfit] clinics remain open as Essential during the Coronavirus outbreak. We are easing the burden on ERs, urgent cares, and doctor’s offices.

Click here to read more about what we’re doing these troubling times to keep you and your family healthy and safe.

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