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Should I wipe down groceries during the pandemic?

Should I wipe down groceries during the pandemic? AP Illustration/Peter Hamlin

Should I wipe down groceries during the pandemic?

Experts say it’s not necessary for most people.

The coronavirus spreads mainly through the respiratory droplets people spray when talking, coughing, sneezing or singing. It’s why health experts stress the importance of wearing masks and social distancing.

Experts still recommend cleaning surfaces — especially frequently touched spots that infected people might have recently touched. That will also help reduce risk from other germs that haven’t gone away in the pandemic.

People caring for those at risk for severe illness if infected might also want to take the precaution of wiping down any packages.

But experts say to keep things in perspective. The virus is fragile and doesn’t survive easily outside the body for long, they note. Tests finding it on surfaces might just be detecting traces of the virus, not live virus capable of infecting people. Early studies finding it could linger on surfaces for days were conducted under laboratory conditions; the virus likely couldn’t survive that long in real life.

Dr. John Brooks, chief medical officer for the COVID-19 response at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said people should do what makes them comfortable. But he said if people unpack groceries without touching their faces and then washing their hands afterward, “I think that may be sufficient.”

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The AP is answering your questions about the coronavirus in this series. Submit them at: FactCheck@AP.org.

Read previous Viral Questions:

Is shopping in stores safe during the pandemic?

What does emergency use of a COVID-19 vaccine mean?

Who will be the first to get COVID-19 vaccines?


How To Prevent the Spread of COVID-19 Coronavirus

COVID-19 coronaviruses transmitted from person to person. It is a virus that is similar to the common cold and the flu. So, to prevent it from spreading:

  • Wash hands frequently and thoroughly, with soap and water, for at least 20 seconds.
  • Wear a mask.
  • Don’t touch your face.
  • Keep children and those with compromised immune systems away from someone who is coughing or sneezing (in this instance, at least six feet)
  • If there is an outbreak near you, practice social distancing (stay at home, instead of going to the movies, sports events, or other activities.)
  • Get a flu shot.

Local resources

KSL Coronavirus Q&A

Utah’s Coronavirus Information

Utah State Board of Education

Utah Hospital Association

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Utah Coronavirus Information Line – 1-800-456-7707

National Resources

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Commonly asked questions, World Health Organization

Cases in the United States