Health

How To Safely Handle Groceries, Packages And Mail During COVID-19

rows of fruits
Mid-April has approached and the number of confirmed cases of the coronavirus is at a staggering 2 million and increasing. While the risk of contracting the virus remains low with food and food packaging , handling contaminated packages and mail still remains a possibility and risk. A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that the SARS-Cov-2 virus can remain on cardboard for up to a day, and up to three days on plastic containers or steel work surfaces, with the exception of copper surfaces. (1) Whether you’re getting groceries, or receiving packages and mail, here are some tips so that you can safely handle and sanitize objects that will be brought into your household.

Grocery Considerations And Precautions

When getting groceries, consider:
  • Getting at least 2 weeks worth of groceries so you can reduce the frequency of your grocery trips
  • Using contactless payment, such as Google or Apple pay so that you won’t have to touch payment surfaces
  • Shopping for your groceries online and picking it up at the store, so you can minimize the amount of time you spend inside the store OR have your groceries delivered straight to your home

While grocery shopping:
  • Always wear a protective mask and avoid touching your face
  • Maintain social distancing and limiting contact by staying at least 6 feet away from others
  • Sanitize and wash your hands before and after your grocery trip
  • Wipe down your shopping basket or cart before shopping
  • Bag your own items using your own tote bag (if your grocery store allows it). If possible, use a tote bag made of cloth so you can easily wash and reuse it for your next grocery run
  • If using plastic bags, make sure to dispose of it in the recycling bin and clean the surfaces of your home where the plastic bags were placed on

Handling And Disinfecting Groceries

For items encased in plastic and canned goods:
  • Use a disinfectant wipe or spray a disinfectant solution onto a paper towel to wipe down grocery items encased in plastic or in a metal can
  • Alternatively, if you have storage containers, you can easily transfer bagged items into them and immediately dispose of its packaging

For perishables:
  • Take it out of its packaging and transfer it inside a container. For meat, immediately wash your hands after dealing with it, since raw meat may carry salmonella

For items encased in cardboard:
  • Take it out of its packaging. Usually, items inside a cardboard packaging will have another layer of protective covering, such as cereal inside a box or a frozen pizza that’s wrapped in plastic. Make sure that you don’t touch the bag directly once opening the cardboard packaging, so as to avoid contaminating its surface

For fruits and vegetables:
  • Rinse fruits and vegetables with water and dispose of any plastic bags they were stored in

Below is an informative video by a family doctor Jeffrey VanWingen, M.D., demonstrating the tips listed above.

Handling Packages and Mail

With the virus being able to survive on cardboard surfaces for up to 24 hours, experts suggest these tips below so that you can eliminate possible traces of the virus on your packages and mail:

  • Dispose of packages into the trash or recycling and immediately wash your hands thoroughly after handling
  • Wait for packages/mail to be left at a safe distance before collecting them
  • For extra caution, set aside packages and mail for 24 hours. Designate a corner or room for new arrivals and leave them in isolation for at least 24 hours.
“I am opening the packages on the floor and quickly putting the cardboard in the recycling/trash and then immediately washing my hands very thoroughly. Leaving the package on the porch or on the floor for 24h is also an option, followed by the routine I described,” — Dr.Elizabeth Scott, Co-Director of the Undergraduate Public Health program at Simmons College
Practicing proper hygiene and being cautious of the items being brought into our household is key to lowering our risk and spreading pathogens. Especially for those that are living with high risk individuals such as those who have underlying health conditions, have a compromised immune system and elderly who are above 65 years of age. Even if the chance remains miniscule for the virus to be transmitted via packages or mail carriers, it is better to be on the side of caution.

Additional Resources

Symptoms of COVID-19 include fever, coughing and difficulty breathing. If you or a family member becomes ill, you need to be prepared to self-isolate at home and avoid contact with other people to help prevent the spread to others in your home and community.

To view a comprehensive list of following measures you should take on how to isolate at home if you experience associated symptoms to COVID-19, awaiting results or have been recently diagnosed, please visit Coronavirus disease (COVID-19): How to isolate at home when you have COVID-19.

Please make sure to take the proper safety precautions of limiting contact with others, proper and frequent hygiene practices and monitoring your symptoms as directed by your health care provider or Public Health Authority.

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