Running essential errands during COVID-19

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Frequent and thorough hand washing is a key part of the CDC's guidance for safely running essential errands.
Frequent and thorough hand washing is a key part of the CDC’s guidance for safely running essential errands.

Is it safe to eat takeout? Should I leave my groceries outside in the sun for three days? What about those Amazon deliveries? Are they safe?

As COVID-19 challenges our normal way of life, questions like these are circulating widely, especially on social media. In times of uncertainty, it’s important to rely on facts, rather than fear, to keep yourself safe. Here’s a rundown of what official sources and agencies have to say about takeout, grocery shopping and cleaning your home to minimize risks of exposure.

Is it safe to eat takeout? What about the packaging?

In response to social distancing guidelines and shelter at home orders, many restaurants have dialed up their takeout options. If you are tired of cooking in and wondering if it’s safe to pick up some food from your favorite eatery, the CDC says that likely, it is.

As far as the food itself goes, restaurants already follow very strict standards for food preparation—pandemic or not.

In regards to transmission from packaging, both the CDC and FDA agree that there is no evidence of food, food containers or food packaging being associated with transmission of COVID-19. 

If you’re worried about transmission through takeout containers, the FDA recommends removing your food from the containers when you get home, disposing of the containers, then washing your hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and water prior to eating.

Do I need to disinfect my groceries?

Advice circulating on social media suggests leaving groceries outside for at least three days. At this time, neither CDC nor FDA guidelines say it is necessary to disinfect the groceries you bring home.

“We want to reassure consumers that there is currently no evidence of human or animal food or food packaging being associated with transmission of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19,” the FDA said in a statement posted on its website April 16. “This particular coronavirus causes respiratory illness and is spread from person-to-person, unlike foodborne gastrointestinal or GI viruses, such as norovirus and hepatitis A that often make people ill through contaminated food.”

The CDC’s guidelines for running essential errands recommends following standard food safety guidelines: clean, separate, cook and chill. Clean your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds before, during and after preparation. Frequent and thorough washing reduces the risks for bacterial cross-contamination.

Speaking of groceries …

Though there is no guidance regarding disinfecting your groceries, the CDC does provide guidance for safer grocery shopping.

  • Stay at least 6 feet away from others while shopping and in lines.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a cloth face covering when you have to go out in public.
  • When you do have to visit in person, go during hours when fewer people will be there (for example, early morning or late night).
  • If you are at higher risk for severe illness, find out if the store has special hours for people at higher risk. If they do, try to shop during those hours. People at higher risk for severe illness include adults 65 or older and people of any age who have serious underlying medical conditions.
  • Disinfect the shopping cart; use disinfecting wipes if available.
  • Do not touch your eyes, nose or mouth.
  • If possible, use touchless payment (pay without touching money, a card or a keypad). If you must handle money, a card or use a keypad, use hand sanitizer right after paying.
  • After leaving the store, use hand sanitizer. When you get home, wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.

Is it safe to receive packages in the mail?

When receiving packages, the CDC recommends having carriers leave the package outside and have no in person contact. If you must speak with a carrier, maintain social distancing guidelines.

Regarding safely handling the package after delivery, the guidance for frequent hand-washing stands here, as well.  Wash thoroughly for 20 seconds with soap and water after receiving and opening packages.

Questions about other essential errands like going to the bank? Check out this guide by the CDC for running essential errands.

Disinfect your home daily

As a general best practice to reduce the spread of the virus, the CDC recommends cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched surfaces daily. This includes tables, doorknobs, light switches, countertops, handles, desks, phones, keyboards, toilets, faucets and sinks. The CDC has compiled this guide for cleaning and disinfecting your home.

The content of this site is for informational purposes only and should not be taken as professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding any medical conditions or treatments.