Staying safe at the grocery store: Gloves, masks, wipes are key during coronavirus pandemic

From wiping down your cart to wearing a mask, many people are trying to take safety precautions if they have to go to the grocery store. 

“I keep wipes with me in my bag,” said shopper Katie McFarland. “I wipe my hands off, I wipe my son’s hands off, I keep stuff in the car.”

Anne-Marie Gloster, a nutritional sciences lecturer at the University of Washington’s epidemiology department, said if you don’t have gloves, try using a produce bag instead.

“I put one of the produce bags over my hand, so while I was selecting produce, I used that,” explained Gloster.

Gloster said sometimes if you wear disposable gloves, you forget you’re wearing them and still do the same behaviors like scratching your face.

“Wearing gloves gives you this false sense of protection, and people will still touch their faces,” she said. “If you use a produce bag and keep it on your hand as a reminder, I think that gives you a better layer of protection.”

If you have to bring your children, she said to keep them in the grocery cart seat. “If your child is small enough to put them in the grocery cart seat, please do that because they just love to touch everything,” Gloster advised. “But this is a time for solo-mission shopping, as I call it.”

And that includes leaving your phone in your car unless you’re using it for touchless pay. “Our phones are a spit vector,” Gloster said. “We talk into them. We spit on them. We lay them down on multiple surfaces. In the store, go back to the paper list, so you don’t have to pull out your phone all of the time."

Publix and Winn Dixie stores are installing safety plexiglass barriers at checkout aisles. Trader Joe’s said its barriers are in the works. But when it comes to the checkout lines, Gloster said you are going to likely end up touching a PIN pad, but it’s just about not touching your face afterward. 

RELATED: Expect Plexiglass, long lines as grocery stores adjust during coronavirus pandemic

And once you’re at home, she says unless you’re in the at-risk age group, you shouldn’t worry about wiping down or sanitizing all of your groceries. She said only wipe down items you know have been touched a lot, like a prescription bottle. 

“If you’ve picked up a prescription, your prescription bottle has been touched by two or three people,” Gloster said. “Wipe those things down. But a cardboard box that’s got your pasta in it, I’m just putting them aside for a good three days.”

That’s the timeline officials from the World Health Organization have noted for how long the virus can survive on surfaces like cardboard or plastic. 

And the Food and Drug Administration pretty much agrees. The FDA’s Deputy Commissioner for Food Policy and Response said there is no evidence food packaging being associated with the transmission of the coronavirus. 

If you feel sick:

The Florida Department of Health has opened a COVID-19 Call Center at 1-866-779-6121. Agents will answer questions around the clock. Questions may also be emailed to Email responses will be sent during call center hours.

LINK: Florida's COVID-19 website

CORONAVIRUS IN FLORIDA: What you need to know


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