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There's Only One Way to Contract COVID-19 When Grocery Shopping, CDC Says

This is the biggest risk factor.
grocery shopping

Grocery shopping has become one of the most anxiety-inducing activities in our daily lives. From crowds that are sometimes impossible to avoid to concerns surrounding what we should and shouldn't be touching when we're outside of our home, the potential for contracting the coronavirus seems overwhelming. However, we can all breathe a collective sigh of relief, because the CDC is effectively eliminating some of these fears with an adjustment to their safety guidelines.

CDC's newest guidelines warn of only one likely way of contracting coronavirus

As the CDC is learning more about the nature of COVID-19 and the way it spreads among the population, their guidelines on potential ways you could contract the disease have been updated.

In early March, when CDC first put out a set of rules and best practices in protecting oneself against contracting the coronavirus, secondary contamination via objects and surfaces was a hotly debated topic and perhaps the biggest source of fear for people. Staying away from others is one thing, but how are you supposed to protect yourself from the invisible virus that may virtually live on all kinds of objects you are coming into contact with?

At the grocery store, this was especially pertinent to food packaging, checkout counters, and payment methods like cash and credit cards. They all became things many of us were reluctant to touch. And although gloves were never officially elevated to the same level of importance as face masks for the general public, many started wearing them to the grocery store to assuage their anxiety.

Fears grew when a study in The New England Journal of Medicine found that coronavirus could survive on certain surfaces for days. However, the study noted there is no conclusive evidence that people can get infected by the virus this way.

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Now, a slight but potentially significant shift has come to light on CDC's website. Where once their coronavirus guidelines warned that "it may be possible" to contract the virus through contaminated surfaces and objects, the website now lists "touching surfaces or objects" as an unlikely way of contracting the virus.

This is the most likely way you'll contract the virus

The CDC and WHO are in agreement that the primary way you could contract coronavirus is via person-to-person contact. Here are ways in which you are currently most likely to contract or pass around the virus:

  • Being in close contact with another person (closer than six feet).
  • Via respiratory droplets which are expelled when an infected person coughs, sneezes, or talks.
  • If these droplets land in another person's mouth or nose, or if they're inhaled into the lungs.

The CDC notes that it may be possible for COVID-19 to spread in other ways, but these are not thought to be the main ways the virus spreads. This conclusion comes primarily from epidemiological data—tracking ways in which the majority of the people that were infected became infected.

What does this mean?

It means you should still practice safety measures and good hygiene, especially when you're out in highly crowded places like grocery stores. The most important precaution is wearing a face mask and keeping a safe social distance from others at all times. Keep washing your hands frequently and be mindful of touching your face. However, you can let go of some of the anxiety around food packaging and whether you should be wiping down your groceries and cleaning kitchen surfaces more than usual—most likely, it isn't necessary. Sign up for our newsletter to get the latest foods news delivered straight to your inbox.

Eat This, Not That! is constantly monitoring the latest food news as it relates to COVID-19 in order to keep you healthy, safe, and informed (and answer your most urgent questions). Here are the precautions you should be taking at the grocery store, the foods you should have on hand, the meal delivery services and restaurant chains offering takeout you need to know about, and ways you can help support those in need. We will continue to update these as new information develops. Click here for all of our COVID-19 coverage, and sign up for our newsletter to stay up-to-date.

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Mura Dominko
Mura Dominko is a senior editor at Eat This, Not That!. Read more
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