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How to avoid the grocery store, stay safe after White House warning


SAN FRANCISCO (KRON) – The White House coronavirus task force is warning against going out to buy groceries or medication as the pandemic is expected to hit a deadly apex in the next two weeks.

“The next two weeks are extraordinarily important,” White House coronavirus response coordinator Deborah Birx said at a press briefing over the weekend.

“This is the moment to not be going to the grocery store, not going to the pharmacy, but doing everything you can to keep your family and your friends safe,” Birx warned.

Birx clarified her statement Moday night, advising the public to only go shopping if it is “essential.”

“We as Americans should be doing everything possible,” Birx said. “And what I meant was, if you can consolidate, if you can send one person — the entire family doesn’t need to go out on these occasions. This is a highly transmittable virus.”

While pharmacies such as CVS and Walgreens are now offering delivery for prescriptions and other medications, getting food through delivery services such as Instacart or Amazon may be difficult as the demand remains high and people are reporting trouble booking slots.

As a result, perhaps the best solution in the meantime is to adopt some good practices for when you do have to visit the grocery store or pharmacy.

Start by shopping as infrequently as possible.

Minimize your shopping trips

Remember that the main way the virus is mainly spread is through person-to-person contact, according to the CDC.

Therefore, the first thing you want to do is minimize your shopping trips, or consider delivery.

As much as you can, shop at off-peak times like early morning or late in the evening to minimize your contact with other shoppers inside.

Some stores are already making it easy by limiting the number of shoppers inside and marking every 6 feet along the checkout line. So abide by the markings!

Go alone if possible, without children, and make a list so you can pick up what you need and minimize your time in the store.

Plan meals for the week so your shopping list is comprehensive and you don’t have to run to the store last-minute ingredients you may have forgotten.

Also, now may be a good time to start on those canned foods you may have stocked in the back of your pantry.

Dress appropriately

The CDC recently updated its guidelines and now recommends everyone cover their faces in public.

This means coverings like those made from cloth, bandanas, and old t-shirts.

Most DIY masks are quite simple and can be made with things you already have in your home, and no sewing is required.

If you’re wearing latex gloves, just keep in mind that cross-contamination happens very easily at the grocery store. Imagine this – you have gloves on, but you touch some fresh produce, then pick up your phone to text, then get a call and hold the phone to your ear, thus touching your face.

The key is washing your hands often and taking your gloves off properly.

Remove them with one flip of your palm and wrist so you are not dirtying your clean hands.

If possible, consider leaving your phone in your pocket so you do not contaminate it any further.

Beware of shopping carts, baskets

Wiping down your own cart or basket with sanitizing wipes or a spray goes a long way in stopping the spread of the coronavirus, officials ssaid.

Some stores are already sanitizing their carts or offering sanitizer before you enter, but it isn’t a bad idea to bring your own and come prepared.

Self-checkout and how to pay

Self-checkout remains your best bet so you can limit your contact with a worker. You can wipe down the monitor and checkout area before you use it to minimize contamination.

Use a contactless form of payment if possible like ApplePay.

When it comes to using cash or credit, there isn’t really a satisfactory answer here. Paying with your credit card means you’re touching a pin pad, and paying with cash also means you’re handling bills that have changed lots of hands.

What’s most important to remember is to wash your hands when you’re done or immediately apply hand sanitizer.

The deal with reusable bags

Some stores in the Bay Area like Trader Joe’s are no longer allowing you to bring your own reusable bags in an effort to stop the spread of the virus from person-to-person.

Trader Joe’s workers will bag your groceries in their paper bags at no cost.

Other stores permit using reusable bags as long as you bag your own groceries.

Now’s a good time however to wash your reusable bags after each use.

If you can’t wash your bags, wipe them down with disinfecting wipes or an all-purpose spray and paper towel.

Should I sanitize my groceries?

The FDA says at this time there is no evidence of human or animal food or food packaging being associated with transmission of the virus.

However, if you want to be overly cautious you can wipe down boxes or packaging; it is not required. Just remember to wash your hands after handling any packages and when you put your groceries away.

Prep safely and smart

Keep doing things you normally do for food prep like thoroughly washing your fruits and vegetables.

Officials also said you should also be freezing as much food as possible that you will not be eating over the next few days.

When you are ready to eat the items, you can defrost them in the refrigerator.

If you don’t defrost in the fridge you can run items under cold, running water or in the microwave. Just check to make sure you have defrosted all the way through.

Order takeout

Ordering in remains a safe option during the pandemic.

Food delivery services like Postmates, UberEats, Doordash and other services are now also offering contactless delivery options.

Here are some helpful tips if you’ll be picking up your food:

Assume all bags and packaging are contaminated.

1. Pick-up (In Restaurant or Drive-Thru)

  • Wear gloves (optional) when picking up food.
  • Place take-out food and credit card (to be disinfected later) in the plastic bin.
  • Remove gloves. Sanitize hands, steering wheel, door handle, window switch.
  • DO NOT eat any of the food on the way home. The bags are contaminated.
  • Disinfect the bin after removing the food.

2. Home Delivery

  • Have the delivery person leave food at the door.

Bringing the Take-Out In (Clean Area vs Contaminated Area)

  • Sanitize counter or table. Separate the area in half.
  • Place clean serving plates, bowls, and/or platters on one half.
  • Place the “contaminated” food on the other half.
  • As you take food out of the bag, disinfect plastic containers and place them on the “clean” side.
  • For paper-wrapped food, carefully slide the food onto the clean plate. Don’t touch the food.
  • Wipe down bottles of water, canned drinks with disinfectant.
  • Throw out all packaging and disinfect the contaminated area.

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