During a pandemic, cleanliness is next to healthiness
By Samantha Lyles
While most of America practices social distancing and #stayathome remains the rule of the day, we’re relying more and more on take-out food and online shopping. But do these alternative dining and shopping routines carry a risk of COVID-19 infection? What if someone at the restaurant or delivery service was sick? Does that mean our Amazon packages or take-out containers are contaminated?
Not likely, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which believes that the airborne virus is most effectively spread when infected people sneeze or cough near healthy people. This is why the CDC encourages maintaining 6 feet of personal space in public, and new advisories ask people to wear face masks in public to prevent spreading the disease.
As far as food deliveries, health authorities say that the 2019 novel coronavirus is not food-borne, meaning it’s a respiratory illness that attacks the lungs, not the digestive system. The Food and Drug Administration has said there’s no evidence the virus can spread via food or food packaging, provided restaurants are following safe preparation and delivery protocols.
Packages delivered from Amazon and other online retailers also pose a low risk, according to the CDC. They’ve estimated that the virus could live for up to 24 hours on cardboard, but the chances of it surviving for multiple days during shipping are very low.
Still, medical authorities have not dismissed the possibility that infection could occur when someone touches a recently contaminated object and then touches their mouth, nose or eyes. Estimates from the CDC and National Institutes of Health indicate that COVID-19 could live for up to three days on plastic and stainless steel surfaces, meaning that now more than ever, it’s important to keep our homes clean.
The CDC recommends these tips for disinfecting surfaces in your home: If a surface is visibly dirty, clean it with soap and water first, then use a disinfectant. Wear disposable gloves. Make sure you have good ventilation in the area where you are cleaning. Use a diluted household bleach solution, or an alcohol-based solution with at least 70% alcohol. The Environmental Protection Agency has a list of cleaning products that meet its criteria for use against the 2019 novel coronavirus. Follow instructions on the cleaning product’s label, and check to make sure it isn’t expired. Wash your hands when you’re done.
When you need to venture out for necessary trips, don’t neglect cleaning the interior of your vehicle. According to Consumer Reports, you can use isopropyl alcohol (70%) to disinfect most interior surfaces without damaging them. Take care to clean frequently touched surfaces: steering wheel, door handles, shift lever, buttons and touch screens, wiper and turn signal stalks, passenger and driver door armrests, grab handles, and seat adjusters.
For home electronics like computers, remote controls, phones and tablets, use alcohol-based wipes or sprays containing at least 70% alcohol then dry the surface thoroughly.
Thoroughly cleaning and disinfecting a home where someone is sick poses more challenges. Wear disposable gloves to clean and disinfect. Make sure you disinfect high-touch surfaces every day. Pay special attention to doorknobs, handles, tables, countertops, keyboards and light switches. Keep sick persons in their own bedroom and bathroom if possible; if not, the sick person should disinfect the bathroom after they use it.
Sick persons should eat in their room if possible, and all dishes and utensils should be washed in hot, soapy water or in a dishwasher.
Trash from a sick person’s room should be placed in a lined trash can not shared with the rest of the household. Use gloves when removing garbage bags and disposing of trash. Wash your hands afterwards.
For more cleaning suggestions, visit www.cdc.gov.