How To Grocery Shop Safely During The COVID-19 Pandemic

April 15, 2020

Clinical Contributors to this Story

Cristina Cicogna, M.D. contributes to topics such as Infectious Disease.

Fortunately, many grocery stores have kept their doors open allowing us to keep our refrigerators and cabinets well-stocked. But the question is: Is it safe to go out for a food run when supplies are running low? Or should we opt for delivery?

“If you are considered high-risk for contracting COVID-19, you should do what you can avoid crowded indoor places as much as possible,” says Cristina Cicogna, M.D., chief of infectious diseases at Hackensack University Medical Center.

“See if a friend or loved one can do the shopping and drop groceries off, or look into delivery services,” suggests Dr. Cicogna.

In New Jersey, a recent executive order to help curb the spread of COVID-19 now requires all grocery stores to limit capacity to 50% occupancy, ensure customers and staff always wear cloth face coverings and maintain 6-foot distancing rules. Here’s what you need to know when you’re thinking about getting groceries:

When you are opting for delivery:

  • Ask your delivery person to leave the groceries outside your door to keep contact to a minimum.
  • When paying, use online or touchless payment methods if possible. If you cannot use touchless payment, sanitize your hands after paying with card, cash, or check. Wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds immediately after.

Not high-risk? Tips for going grocery shopping:

  • Plan out what you need to buy BEFORE going into the store. Now is not the time to aimlessly walk the long aisles of the food store to see what looks interesting.
  • Always wear a face covering or homemade mask while in the store. This will help protect others from your respiratory droplets. If everyone wears a mask, it will help all stay safe.
  • Bring sanitizing wipes with you to clean any shopping carts or baskets you use.
  • Commit to what you are buying – do not remove items and then put them back.
  • Shop with caution and avoid touching your mask or eyes as you walk through the store.
  • If you see your family, friends or neighbors – give them a wave or a nod, speak to them from a distance or call them at another time – avoid hugs and handshaking.
  • Use hand sanitizer as soon as you’re done putting your groceries away in your car.

My groceries are home – now what?

  • Place all your groceries in a central location in your kitchen.
  • Throw away outer bags and extra packaging that the groceries came in.
  • Make sure to wash your hands for at least 20 seconds after you put the groceries away.
  • Don’t touch your mouth, nose or eyes during this process.
  • Food safety rules for fruits and veggies remain the same – run them under the faucet using clean hands to rub off any soil or dirt. Soap is not necessary since it is harmful to ingest. There is very little evidence that a respiratory disease is transmitted through produce.
  • After you put everything away make sure to disinfect all the surfaces that your bags have touched.

Next Steps & Resources:

The material provided through HealthU is intended to be used as general information only and should not replace the advice of your physician. Always consult your physician for individual care.