Grocery store tips: Staying safe while shopping during coronavirus outbreak

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- With the stay-at-home order extended for weeks, many are thinking ahead to stocking their pantries.

But a trip to the grocery store is not as simple as it was even a month ago.

To cut through all the info, we asked an infectious disease expert to tell us how she shops.

"I think it's a hard and a scary time to go grocery shopping," said Dr. Angela Rasmussen virologist at Columbia University.

Dr. Angela Rasmussen works at Columbia University and studies the transmission of diseases like COVID-19.

"People should consider going to the grocery store a little less than they normally do, only as often as they need to," she added. "In my household, we've tried to minimize our grocery store trips to once a week, if less."

Dr. Rasmussen picks a time when she thinks the store won't be crowded which, for her, is Sunday morning.

Then, once there, she wipes down her cart and brings hand sanitizer.

Dr. Rasmussen mentions she is careful to not touch too many items in the store, but it's the interaction with people in the aisles and at the checkout counter that she worries about the most.

"I try to go through self-checkout to minimize my interactions with cashiers and also minimize their risk," she said.

Recent guidance from the CDC says the virus can live on cardboard for 24 hours, plastic and metal for 72 hours.

But our expert says this is primarily a disease caught by respiratory droplets spread by coughing and sneezing.

The World Health Organization says in previous coronavirus outbreaks like MERS and SARS there was no transmission through food.

The Centers for Disease Control also says there's likely a very low risk of transmission through the food you eat.

Dr. Rasmussen says she's not concerned with some of the handled items in the grocery store.

"I have gone to deli counters, I have gotten fresh meat and fresh fish. In general, I think deli counters are probably pretty low-risk situations."

But keeping your hands away from your face during the shopping trip is a focus for her, and when she gets home she says she washes her hands but she doesn't wipe down her groceries.
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