Doctors give tips for grocery shopping while social distancing

Posted at 5:51 PM, Mar 26, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-26 21:36:55-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — For those in the public following the 'Safer at Home' order, it's inevitable. Eventually, they will have to leave to pick up more supplies from the grocery store.

But how does one do that and maintain a low risk of contracting COVID-19?

Doctors at Vanderbilt had a few suggestions for such a scenario. Infectious disease expert Dr. David Aronoff said right now it's known the virus can be contracted from people touching their face after getting it on their hands. So, hand washing is still the most important way to be safe.

Inside of a grocery store can be more tricky. Dr. Aronoff suggests staying six feet away from everyone else.

"If possible, bring sanitizer or sanitizing wipes with you to the grocery store," said Dr. Aronoff. "I found that a lot of grocery stores are providing sanitary wipes and use that to wipe them handle of the cart before entering the store and doing your shopping."

Dr. Aronoff said COVID-19 can't survive long on surfaces. So, it's important to just let products sit for at least 24 hours before handling them once you get home.

“The main way that the coronavirus could get from an inanimate object like a produce product or a box of cereal or a can of soup into our mouth would be directly handling that and then touching our face. And so, it’s prudent to then put away your groceries,” he said.

If the items need to be used immediately, then they can be washed using soap and water, or the outside of a container can be wiped down using common household cleaner.

“I think people need to realize that with some very safe common sense measures, particularly hand hygiene and making sure your plates and silverware and cups and glasses have been washed, that that’s really fine and there’s no reason to panic about going to get essential food,” said Aronoff.

He also stressed the most important method to stopping the spread is to just not be around other people. So, making as few runs to the store as possible is the best route.


See all our coronavirus coverage here


What is COVID-19 (a.k.a. the new coronavirus?)

According to the World Health Organization, coronaviruses (CoV) are a large family of viruses that cause illness ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases. Examples include the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV)and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV). A novel coronavirus (nCoV) is a new strain that has not been previously identified in humans. COVID-19 stands for "Coronavirus disease 2019," which is when this strain of the coronavirus was discovered.

What are the symptoms?

The CDC says patients confirmed to have the 2019-nCoV reportedly had mild to severe respiratory illness with:

  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing

Or at least two of the following symptoms:

  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Repeated shaking with chills
  • Muscle pain
  • Headache
  • Sore throat
  • New loss of taste or smell

At this time, the CDC believes symptoms could appear as soon as two days after exposure, or as long as 14 days.


The CDC is recommending "common sense" measures such as:

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a cloth face cover when around others.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.