A Condo Dweller’s Guide to Safe Shopping

The nice thing about condo living is there is almost always a convenience store, a grocery, or a supermarket nearby, so getting your essentials during the ECQ won’t be a problem. The tricky part: the limited space. Since you don’t have a porch or a garage where you can disinfect your groceries, you don’t have any option than to bring it inside once you arrive.

Shopping these days can pose serious health risks because of the coronavirus pandemic. A March 2020 study from the National Institutes of Health says that SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, can stay up to 24 hours on cardboard and up to two to three days on plastic and stainless steel. This month, the Lancet Microbe published a study that showed the coronavirus can survive in spaces much longer: 2 days on cloth, 3 days on stainless steel, 4 days on glass and paper money, and up to 7 days on the outside of a surgical mask.

Despite the worrisome news, there’s still something we can do to protect ourselves from COVID-19 while running important errands. We’ve gathered some very useful information from Dr. Jeff VanWingen and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as well as practical tips from condo dwellers of Century Properties to help you out.

Before heading out:

  1. Do a quick health assessment. If you are sick, have respiratory symptoms or have been exposed to a sick person, it may be best to order items for delivery or ask a relative to do the shopping for you.
  2. Make a list. This will help you choose items faster and minimize the time you spend outside the house. If you can, buy supplies that will last you for two weeks.
  3. Assign an elevated surface in your condo, a table or a kitchen counter, to put your grocery bags on when you come home. Divide the surface into two – a dirty area and a clean area. Wipe both areas with a standard disinfectant.
  4. Depending on your list, you can put containers in the clean area that will come in handy when you transfer vegetables and other items after shopping.
  5. Assign a paper bag or a shoe case inside your condo to put your shoes in when you return. This must be close to the door of your unit. If possible, assign only one or two pairs of footwear for your errands and separate them from those that you are not using.
  6. Make sure you are wearing your mask, and have your alcohol or hand sanitizer and shopping bag before going outside.

While inside the store:

  1. Do not touch your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  2. Do not put your phone in public surfaces like shelves or counters. Keep it inside your pocket or bag.
  3. If you’re only buying a few items, use your own shopping bag to put your groceries inside. Don’t use the cart or grocery basket anymore.
  4. If you must use a cart or basket, wipe it down with alcohol or disinfectant.
  5. Commit to buying the items first before you pick them up.
  6. If you can manage a touchless payment, do so. If you must use cash or card, clean your hands after with alcohol or a hand sanitizer and remember to thoroughly wash your hands at home.

When you get home:

  1. You may opt to leave some non-perishable items that you don’t immediately need in your storage space outside your condo unit or inside your car trunk.
  2. When you return to your floor, remove your shoes outside the door and pick them up to bring inside your unit. Place them in the assigned paper bag or shoe case immediately.
  3. Remove your mask and discard properly, or in the case of cloth masks, wash it thoroughly with detergent soap and hang to dry.
  4. For items that you need to bring inside your unit right away, do the following. You can apply the same for when you get some items delivered into your home.
    1. Put your grocery bags on the dirty side of your assigned table or counter.
    2. Wash your hands thoroughly for 20 seconds with soap and water.
    3. Get the items from the bag one by one, wiping each one down with a cloth saturated in a disinfectant solution and transferring it to the clean side.
  5. Some tips on cleaning your packaged grocery items by type:
    1. For medicines, remove the items from the brown bag and wipe them down with disinfectant. Transfer to the clean side of the table. Discard the brown bag.
    2. For items that come in boxes like cereals, remove the bag from the box and put it on the clean table. Discard the box.
    3. For fruits and vegetables, remove them from the bag and transfer to a clean container. You may opt to wash them in running water too.
    4. For items like breads, remove from packing and transfer to a clean, air-tight container.
    5. Spray down thick containers and foil packaging, concentrating on high-touch areas such as handles, lids, and caps.
    6. Studies have shown that the coronavirus can survive for long periods even in frozen temperature, so wipe down items like ice cream containers before putting them inside the freezer.

For takeout food:

  1. Put the takeout bags on the dirty area of the table.
  2. Wash your hands thoroughly for 20 seconds with soap and water.
  3. Put some clean plates down on the clean side of the table.
  4. Open the takeout bag and drop the food on the clean plates while avoiding contact with the wrapper. Do the same for packaged sauces like ketchup.
  5. Microwave or heat the food whenever possible. Heat destabilizes the coronavirus, so whenever possible, order hot over cold food.

All these steps seem to be time consuming, Dr. Jeff VanWingen notes, but “we do have a bit more time on our hands. Let’s use it to be methodical and not take any chances.”

 

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