SAN JOSE (KPIX 5) — As Californians begin their 4th week of the coronavirus pandemic sheltering-in-place, many are adapting to ever-evolving guidance for safe grocery shopping, which now includes wearing a mask and disinfecting the groceries themselves.
In Santa Clara County, retailers have been required to submit social distancing plans. At the Safeway on San Carlos Street and Meridian Avenue in San Jose’s midtown neighborhood, a “sanitation crew” could be seen spraying and wiping down carts. Safeway has begun limiting the number of people inside the stores, as evidenced by the long line of people outside.
“Unfortunately some people may be infected that are at the grocery store, and some people may be touching things and then put them back because they change their mind,” said Ann Marie Pettis, president-elect of the Association For Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology.
Pettis said shoppers with their own disinfectant sprays or wipes should consider bringing that along on their trip to the grocery stores, as some grocers may not supply them, or have irregular disinfecting schedules. Pettis also said disinfecting just the cart handle is adequate, since wiping or spraying down an entire cart or basket may prove to be “too onerous”.
Shopping during morning or midday hours when crowds are smaller will help to limit exposure to others. Pettis also recommends wearing a mask, per guidelines from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Other tips: only touch what you intend to buy, use a contactless payment system, avoid paying with cash, and wipe down and disinfect the ATM PIN pad before touching.
As for gloves, Pettis said if they’re not sterile, medical-grade quality, and wearers haven’t been trained on proper procedures, then gloves may provide a false sense of security.
“If it’s very important to put them on correctly, and take them off correctly,” said Pettis. “The other thing that people might not always understand is that there could be microscopic holes in gloves, you might not be able to see them.”
Once home, isolate the groceries and begin wiping the packaging down with disinfectant, or wash with soap and water.
“I don’t think everyone is going to do that, and that’s OK, but I do think that it’s probably out of an abundance of caution to clean down the items. So I think it probably makes some sense,” said Pettis.
Produce should only be washed with water, according to the CDC, since porous fruits and vegetables can absorb soap and cause intestinal distress.
In its guidance on February 27, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration said, “We are not aware of any reports at this time of human illnesses that suggest COVID-19 can be transmitted by food or food packaging.”
Sandy Samra of Fremont is not taking any chances. After a Costco run Tuesday morning, Sandy washed and rinsed her purchases in soapy water, preserving a big bottle of Clorox wipes.
“Wipes are expensive,” said Samra.
After disinfecting the groceries, clean the table and disinfect the trunk and all its contents, said Pettis.