Tips for grocery shopping during the COVID-19 pandemic

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Published April 9, 2020 at 9:02 pm

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When it comes to grocery shopping during this pandemic, there’s a lot of information and suggestions out there about what we’re all supposed to be doing.

One such suggestion is that we’re supposed to be sanitizing our groceries.

The truth is, it’s really up to you if you do that or not. Just be sure that you’re not using Lysol on your produce or using chemicals and then ingesting them.

As it stands, Public Health is not currently recommending that we sanitize what we purchase at grocery stores, BUT there are some things you should be doing to protect yourself and others.

Dr. Ninh Tran, an Associate Medical Officer of Health for Hamilton’s Public Health Service (PHS), says that the most important thing people can do is wash their hands and keep your hands away from your face.

“You don’t need to disinfect everything that you buy,” he told InTheHammer. “It’s really important to do hand washing before you shop and right after you put the groceries away.”

If you touch your face at any point in the process, he said, be sure to wash your hands.

He added that digging into the food right away, especially if you haven’t washed your hands, would present the “highest likelihood” of transmission, but the chances are still minimal.

If you want to exercise the most extreme caution, though, Dr. Tran suggests leaving the groceries for a day or two because in the off chance that the surface came into contact with the virus, time would make the virus “less and less viable,” on the packaging.

So while there is some evidence that the virus can live on some surfaces — some studies suggest in optimal conditions it can survive as much as three days — but a grocery store and their products aren’t an ‘optimal’ situation.

Therefore, there’s a very minimal chance that it will be transmitted through grocery stores this way.

“We’re generally not seeing those kinds of transmissions,” Dr. Tran said.

Sanitizing frequently used surfaces — doorknobs, electronics, light switches, countertops etc — is also good practice in helping to prevent the spread of the virus.

Tran and PHS say more information on how to properly sanitize frequently used surfaces can be found here.

“One should consider wearing a mask when you go to the grocery store,” he suggested, echoing the recommendation put forth by Dr. Elizabeth Richardson, Hamilton’s Medical Officer of Health, earlier this week.

At the time, Richardson urged residents to avoid the use of medical masks and to opt for cloth or homemade masks.

“Don’t use medical masks because those need to be used by medical workers,” she said.

The Centre for Disease control has directions on how to make a mask here.

The truth remains, there is a lot that doctors and researchers still need to learn about the virus. According to Dr. Tran, the science is “evolving and variable,” and the most effective way of preventing its spread at this point in time is staying away from one another, washing our hands and sanitizing frequently used surfaces.

So, to sum up how we should approach grocery shopping during COVID-19:

  1. Maintaining physical distancing recommendations to keep two-metres (or six feet) away from other shoppers and staff is very important
  2. Wear a mask
  3. Wash your hands, wash your hands, wash your hands!!!!
  4. Don’t touch your face and then other surfaces, or don’t touch a surface and then your face. Just keep your hands off your face and if you can’t, wash your hands
  5. Sanitizing your groceries is really a personal choice, at this point. One just needs to be sure that they are sanitizing safely and not using chemicals and then ingesting them
  6. Wash your hands after you’ve put your groceries away and before handling food
  7. If you’re concerned that your groceries came into contact with the virus, leave them for a few days in the appropriate place to give the virus a chance to die off
  8. Be kind to the grocery store staff who are still out there trying to help the rest of us
  9. Wash your hands!!!!
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