Such is the power of COVID-19 that, as we practice social distancing and “Stay Safe, Stay Home,” the scariest part of our week is going to the local grocery store.

Is it safe? Yes, it’s safe to buy whatever is available but remain mindful that, though coronavirus spreads primarily person-to-person, viral particles from a cough or sneeze can linger on hard surfaces. Be careful, but not scared, in a supermarket.

Here are some precautions:

At The Grocery Store

Your safe-shopping strategy should begin well before entering the store. Start by determining the best time to go — when the fewest people are likely shopping in your favorite store.

Come prepared. Most stores have sanitizer wipes inside the store, but bring your own to wipe down the shopping cart handles you’ll grab outside the store.

Many shoppers, fearful of infection, walk past fresh produce. Don’t be one of those people. Get two produce bags. Put your hand inside one, using it as a glove to pick up fruit or vegetables before placing them in the second bag. (When you get home, clean that produce properly. Click here.) Wearing vinyl gloves into the store won’t necessarily help, experts say. You could touch viral particles with the glove, which would protect your hands, but if you then touched your face with a gloved hand you’d risk infection.

Your reusable bag or buy a paper bag?

Your call. A reusable bag can pick up bacteria or, worse, coronavirus viral particles. If you bring your own bag, make sure to wipe it down with a disinfectant or sanitizer after unloading groceries at home.

At Home

Packaged and  Canned Foods

Some experts say wiping down packaged or canned goods will not reduce your risk of COVID-19 infection, but others recommend containers with plastic, metal and glass get a quick wipe-down with a soap-and-water solution. Do whatever makes you feel most comfortable. (How long do COVID-19 viral particles on surfaces? Click here.)

Once you’ve put away the groceries, wash your hands, the kitchen counters and anything else you’ve just touched. Also disinfect any surfaces touched by your shopping bags.

The Grocery Delivery Service

The at-risk population — over 65 years old and people with underlying conditions such as diabetes, chronic lung disease or asthma, heart disease and HIV — should stay home. Avoid crowds of any size. Let a friend or family member help with your shopping. Or choose a delivery service.

If you choose a delivery service: Minimize contact with the delivery person. Ask if the groceries can be left outside the house. Infection from bags or product packaging is unlikely, but wash your hands for 20 seconds before and after bringing the groceries into the house.

Remember that food, and food packaging, is not the greatest threat in the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s other people. If you must socialize while shopping, do it from 6 feet away. Good hygiene and social distancing are the best ways to stay healthy.

Not feeling well? Call your healthcare provider for guidance and try to avoid going directly to an emergency department or urgent care center, as this could increase the chances of the disease spreading.

Click here to schedule a virtual visit with a Hartford HealthCare-GoHealth Urgent care doctor.

Stay with Hartford HealthCare for everything you need to know about the coronavirus threat. Click here for information updated daily.

Questions? Call our 24-hour hotline (860.972.8100 or, toll-free, 833.621.0600). 

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