Going to the grocery store or receiving packages can bring a lot of questions today. Below you have a guideline on groceries, what to do when bringing them into the house, food delivery, and packages.
Below are updates and recommendations regarding food availability, procurement, and handling. All information included within has been corroborated by the USDA, CDC, and a recent article released by Harvard School of Public Health. At the time of this update, there are no indications that food shortages will occur nationwide from a production standpoint. Any shortages noted in towns or cities is due to consumer stockpiling rather than production shortages. There have been no confirmed reports of spread or transmission of COVID-19 through imported goods, through food, or through packaging. That being said, it has been confirmed that the virus can live on a variety of surfaces that we interact with daily. The virus can persist on cardboard packaging for 24 hours, plastic packaging and steel surfaces for up to 3 days.
The following precautions should be observed if you are receiving goods or are entering stores to purchase supplies. Please note that the CDC acknowledges the greatest risk of viral transmission is through direct interaction with delivery personnel, store staff, or other customers within a shopping area. Secondary risk, they explain further, is viral transmission from touching contaminated public shopping carts or baskets.
Our bottom line: have groceries and supplies delivered, if that option exists.
Grocery store — If entering a grocery store cannot be avoided, please observe the following:
- Glove prior to entering the store. Completely avoid touching your face during this time.
- Prior to shopping, sanitize the basket or cart with a sanitizing wipe and dispose immediately. Alternatively, you may bring your own large reusable bag.
- To check out, use the self-check line, sanitize the scanning screen, touch screen, and belt prior to and after use.
- Bag your own items both at the self-check and at the regular check-out line.
- Use hand sanitizer upon leaving the store.
- Once home, wash perishable goods with soap and water. Anything non-perishable can be left outside for 1-3 days depending on the packaging. If the item is needed, remove all cardboard packaging and dispose; wipe down plastic packaging with disinfecting wipes or with soap and water.
- Wash hands for at least 20 second with soap and water after handling goods and prior to eating.
Delivered goods — For both grocery items and other delivered goods, our recommendations are as follows:
- If the item is non-perishable, you may leave it outside for 1-3 days depending on packaging type.
- If the item requires refrigeration:
- Open the packaging and dispose in a receptacle or garbage bag outside.
- Wash each item with soap, water, and a soft vegetable brush for at least 20 seconds.
- Wash hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
Prepared food delivery — This is an attractive option for many individuals and families looking to take a break from cooking or to show support to the local economy. Keep in mind that the risk of viral transmission is increased with direct contact with delivery personnel. Things to decrease risk of viral transmission are the following:
- Pay over the phone and request contactless delivery.
- Receive packaged meals, open the packaging, wash hands.
- Remove food, wash hands.
- Dispose of packaging, wash hands.
Temperatures and times for coronavirus are not yet fully researched, but conclusions from this paper suggest heating food to a temperature of 149°F (65°C) for at least 3 minutes is sufficient. Experts assume that the virus will respond like other pathogens and that hotter temperatures will require shorter times. The virus was shown to be inactivated by ultraviolet light (UV) at 254 nm, and heat treatment of 65 degrees C or greater.
While the FDA does not suspect fecal-oral or food contamination as primary routes of spread, foodborne exposure is not ruled out given the presence of the virus in feces and survivability on surfaces. For more information, the current FDA recommendations can be found here .
CDC Recommends Covering Faces With Cloth, Basic Masks
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Friday, April 3rd announced new guidelines recommending the use of cloth materials and basic masks to cover faces.
The U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams said the reason the guidance on face coverings changed after evidence showed increased transmissions from people who are presymptomatic (people who have not yet shown symptoms) and asymptomatic (people who carry the virus but do not show symptoms).
Adams also stressed that surgical masks and N95 masks should be saved for health care workers. He added that social distancing is still the most important aspect of slowing the spread.