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By now, we’ve all seen those cheeky T-rex clad grocery shoppers pushing a cart. The meme is funny but also relevant: In the COVID-19 era, the grocery store can feel like a dangerous place. But short of donning your own dino suit (with a mask underneath, of course), there are plenty of ways to minimize risk, many of which rely on basic good health practices like washing your hands. Here’s what to do to stay—and keep others—safe:
- Shop at off hours and, if you’re in a high-risk group, take advantage of stores’ designated senior hours.
- Do not shop if you’re feeling ill. “It’s really important for those experiencing symptoms to stay out of the public space,” says Danica Lee, public health investigations director for the Denver Department of Public Health and Environment. “That’s the biggest risk in terms of shopping in public.”
- Wear a mask. “I want everyone to be masked. It amazes me that stores are allowing people in without them,” says David Corsun, director and associate professor of DU’s Fritz Knoebel School of Hospitality Management. Some stores, like Oliver’s Meat Market and Marczyk Fine Foods, require shoppers to mask up for both the safety of their staff and their customers. “Be mindful of not touching your face or adjusting the mask,” Lee says.
- Use sanitizing wipes to clean the handles of grocery carts and baskets. Carry hand sanitizer to use after touching high-trafficked surfaces such as freezer door handles.
- There is no need to wear gloves. “They offer no extra protection over hand sanitizer and hand washing,” Lee says. “Often people get a false sense of security from wearing them and they forget they’re still picking up all the contaminates on surfaces.”
- Handle product as little as possible. “I have reduced the way I handle produce before I pick it. Now I eye it and choose it. My hope is lots of people are doing that,” Corsun says.
- Get in and get out. Now is not the time to browse the shelves or produce section looking for dinner inspiration. Make a list ahead of time and stick to it; the list should be written on paper to avoid contact with your phone. If at all possible, leave your phone in the car so you’re not tempted to pull it out, scroll through with dirty fingers, and then press it to your face.
- If you choose to wear gloves, remove them carefully. “You want to make sure you handle just the cuff of the glove,” Lee says. Loop your finger into the cuff and pull down, peeling the fingers off so the glove comes off inside out. Use hand sanitizer after leaving the store and before touching your keys or car door handle.
- Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water when you get home.
- Wash your hands again after putting groceries away. There’s no need to sanitize each and every product. “What we know is that handling containers and packages presents low risk,” Lee says.
- For fruits, such as apples or pears or citrus to be zested, “washing under running cold water for 30 seconds is an effective precaution,” Lee says.