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Health Experts Want You to Do Less of This at Grocery Stores

Cutting this one thing out when shopping for food can greatly reduce the spread of COVID-19, experts say.
Mom and little boy buy fresh vegetable in grocery store. Family in shop.

The days of an enjoyable and relaxed trip to the grocery store are sadly no more thanks to COVID-19. And now, health experts are advising that the next time you go grocery shopping, you should completely avoid idle chit-chat, or else you risk spreading the coronavirus.

In a recent deep dive published in The Atlantic, public health and medical experts make a very compelling case that the best way to curb the spread of COVID-19 is to stop talking. Period. "Every route of viral transmission would go down if we talked less, or talked less loudly, in public spaces," Jose L. Jimenez, a professor at the University of Colorado at Boulder, who studies disease transmission, told The Atlantic. "This is just a very clear fact. It's not controversial."

Donald K. Milton, a professor at the University of Maryland School of Public Health, who has studied how surgical face masks can reduce viral spread, agrees that "silence and quiet speaking are reasonable means of intervening" to reduce COVID-19 transmission.

The SARS CoV-2 virus is at its most contagious when it is in aerosolized droplet form—like when it's emitted from coughing, sneezing, or, yes, even loud speaking. Researchers are saying that talking less or whispering can reduce the chance of emitting these droplets.

As we know, the environments that present the most significant risk of spreading COVID-19 via droplets are highly-trafficked and poorly ventilated indoor spaces, like grocery stores. If you need visual evidence of how quickly germs can spread, the following 3D simulation produced by Aalto University, the Finnish Meteorological Institute, VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland, and the University of Helsinki illustrates it in this terrifying video:

The video represents how aerosol particles carrying the virus can remain in the air longer than initially thought. It also illustrates the reason why public health experts are advising you to keep your comments—and conversations—to yourself while you're inside the grocery store.

To that end, the writer of The Atlantic essay, Derek Thompson, suggests that anyone out in public should follow library rules until the pandemic ends. "Every time you walked into a school, a medical clinic, a drug store, a barbershop, an office, an airplane, a train, or a government building, you should see a sign that reads: HUSH FOR YOUR HEALTH," he writes.

For now, it may be best to just zip your lips when you're on your next food run.

In unrelated news, check out What Happens to Your Body When You Drink a Smoothie Every Day.