Longer Trips to These Stores May Raise COVID-19 Risk

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A woman in a mask pushing a grocery cart
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No matter how much you try to hunker down at home to avoid the coronavirus, there are some errands that are tough to avoid — such as grocery shopping.

Unfortunately, shopping for such essentials can put you at higher risk of contracting the coronavirus, especially if you remain in the store too long, according to a recent New York Times report.

In fact, if you shop, it is best to keep your grocery trips to 30 minutes or less, says Linsey Marr, an aerosol scientist at Virginia Tech and an expert on airborne disease transmission.

Avoiding long periods in proximity to infected people is key to preventing yourself from being infected with the coronavirus, which causes the COVID-19 disease. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says spending 15 minutes or more within 6 feet of someone who is infected with or has been exposed to the coronavirus raises your risk of infection.

To stay safe, Marr and other experts the NYT consulted also recommend that you:

  • Wear a well-fitting mask at all times in the store and avoid touching your face.
  • Bring a shopping list, including substitutes in case you can’t find the item you want.
  • Avoid crowded areas of the store.
  • Maintain social distance in the checkout line and at the register.
  • Wash your hands thoroughly after leaving the store, or, if you can’t get to a sink right away, use hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol — then wash with soap when you get home.

Despite these warnings, Marr acknowledges that there is “no evidence that grocery shopping has led to large outbreaks or a significant amount of transmission.”

Nevertheless, Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, agrees that limiting your time in the grocery store is a good idea. As he told the NYT:

“Don’t count on your mask to be a total blockade. The time of exposure is really important.”

One way to avoid crowds at grocery stores is to place an order online and pick it up in the store or at the curb. To learn more, read “11 Grocery Stores Offering Free Pickup.”

For more on staying safe from the coronavirus, check out:

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