Is shopping in stores safe during the pandemic? 11 tips from the CDC
As we get closer to Christmas and the shopping rush at stores and supermarkets, many may be asking if it's safe to shop in stores during the pandemic.
There are ways to reduce risk, but health experts advise avoiding it when possible.
1. High risk
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says holiday shopping in crowded stores is a “higher risk” activity and that people should limit any in-person shopping, including at supermarkets.
2. Shop online and outdoors
The agency recommends shopping online, visiting outdoor markets or using curbside pickup, where workers bring orders to your car.
3. Go off hours
If you need to enter a store, go during off hours when there will likely be fewer people. Wear a mask and stay at least 6 feet away from others.
4. Spend little time inside store
Try to spend as little time inside the store as possible, says Dr. Isaac Weisfuse, a public health expert at Cornell University.
5. Consider ventilation
If the air in a store feels stuffy, Weisfuse says that’s a sign of poor ventilation, and you should leave.
6. Shopping bags
If you normally bring your own reusable shopping bags, ensure they are cleaned before each use. Some locations have temporarily banned the use of reusable shopping bags during the COVID-19 pandemic, so check your state, local, store or market policies before bringing reusable bags.
7. Clean shopping cart
Disinfect the shopping cart, use disinfecting wipes if available.
8. Follow directional signs
Use marked entry or exit points and follow any directional signs or floor markings designed to keep people at least 6 feet apart.
9. Don't touch products
Only touch products that you plan to purchase, if possible.
10. Touchless payments
If possible, use touchless payment (pay without touching money, a card, or a keypad). If you must handle money, a card, or use a keypad, use hand sanitizer right after paying.
11. Practice hand hygiene
Before entering and after exiting the grocery store or market, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol. When you get home, and before preparing or eating food, wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
Health officials are also reminding shoppers that, although retailers have been doing all kinds of things to make shoppers feel safe, they don't eliminate the all risk. Some stores will check shoppers' temperatures at the entrance, for example, but an infected person may not have a fever and can still spread the virus.
The plastic barriers between customers and cashiers also might not block all droplets from an infected person.