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How to Stay Safe At Home Part-2: Online Shopping Tips during the time of Covid-19

Lidia Bertesteanu |

Not long ago, we discussed a few things on how to stay safe and shop smart while going to the grocery store. According to the specialists, if you are in the risk-group or you feel sick, you should better stay at home and get your groceries via online delivery. But how can you prevent coronavirus contamination while enjoying delivery services? Let’s discuss today the essential aspects of safe online shopping.

Why Shopping Online is the Better Option during Covid19?

With social distancing procedures and physical stores changing the shopping hours and internal rules, online shopping and home delivery is the better option than going out for groceries. Home delivery comes with a handful of advantages, especially during the pandemic isolation and lockdown:

  • It allows you to stay at home, just as the authorities recommend, and respect curfew recommendations enacted in multiple cities and states, together with the current social isolation rules;
  • Helps you avoid staying in line, cramming with other people in stores, touch shelves, etc.;
  • It helps you avoid touching money, as most supermarkets and grocery stores insist these days that we all pay online with our cards;
  • Online shopping saves time and major risks of infection spreading when it comes to touching unpackaged goods, produce, and other products.

In this time of worldwide turmoil, one does naturally wonder whether online shopping and grocery delivery are, indeed, safe. Besides the practical advantages of having our goods delivered to our doors, does this shopping practice keeps delivery personnel safe? And, more than that, are the delivery bags and containers safe? How about the packaged foods we order? We will discuss all these issues right now.

Is It Safe to Order Supplies Online?

If you are in the "high risk" population and you don't have a trusted friend or family member to help you get your groceries, specialists say that the safest way to go about such matters is to pick delivery service. You must take some precautions in this case as well. It is relatively safe to order supplies at home – as long as you don’t hoard or stockpile food, toiletries, medicine, or cleaning products.

Safe Online Shopping Best Practices

  • When you order groceries (although you might have to wait for days on end for delivery these days), ask the delivery staff to leave the bags in front of your door to limit touching hands and being closer than the recommended 6-feet distance;
  • Tip electronically if you want to support your front-line workers during these terrible times instead of using cash;
  • Do not overload the supermarkets or grocery stores with numerous orders throughout the week.
  • Follow the same rules of grocery shopping online that you respect when you go shopping in the stores: get only the foods your household (pets included) consume during 2 weeks and order just once a week to give shops some room in terms of delivery times and hours;
  • Use your card as much as you can instead of cash.

Should You Wash Your Purchases after You Received Them?

Always remember to wash your hands before and after you pick up the groceries from your doorstep. The CDC mentions washing your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds after you unpack your groceries. Even if researchers recommend we should not panic regarding the risk of virus transmission from contaminated surfaces as there is no evidence that coronavirus spreads via bags and packaging, it is better to be safe than sorry.

  • For this reason, you should disinfect the grocery bags you receive on each delivery and all the non-porous containers such as metal/glass cans, jars, boxes, etc.

Luckily, the food safety rules regarding the handling and cooking food, fresh fruit, vegetables, and other edible items did not change in the wake of the pandemic. There is very little evidence that this respiratory disease can spread through produce. In other words, wash and treat your delivered groceries just as you would treat them outside any pandemic.

How to Make Disinfectant Solution for Non-Porous Food Containers

As we said above, there is no proof you can contract a respiratory disease just by handling cans, jars, bottles, or boxes. Still, the CDC has a disinfectant recipe you could use to wipe clean such items, together with tables, countertops, kitchen utensils’ handles, and other surfaces you use for cooking or eating.

  • Use five tablespoons (1/3rd cup) bleach per gallon of water;
  • Use the solution to wipe clean your containers;
  • Let the solution sit on all surfaces for 1 minute, then wipe again with a fresh tissue to dry.

Alternatively, use sanitized wipes or a sanitary solution (based on 60% alcohol) to wipe all packaged goods you receive.

How to Wash the Grocery Delivery Bags after You Received Them

Most likely, your delivery service will not take back the delivery bags or containers. If you want to keep them – as they are most likely polypropylene bags – you should disinfect them with sanitized wipes or an alcohol-based solution. Soap and water also work well to clean polypropylene bags.

In case you receive cotton, canvas, or jute bags and pouches with your grocery/fashion/toiletries delivery, use the following guides we have prepared for you:

Can the Virus Live on Your Mail or Packages?

We don’t shop only for groceries. We also buy a handful of items online, from books to clothes, and from electronics to car parts. Everything comes in a package of some sort. Can we contract the virus via wraps and packages?

According to Dr. Frederick Davis, associate chair of the emergency department at the Long Island Jewish Medical Center

There should be less concern over infections from items that are shipped over multiple days; most infections occur through droplets as when someone sneezes or coughs, and in most cases, you need a large viral load to be infected. The highest risk of transmission is usually within the first few minutes and decreases more over time, as most virus particles will begin to degrade once outside a living host.

Such data is in accordance with CDC findings, that state there is a “very low risk” of the coronavirus spreading through the mail that is “shipped over multiple days or weeks at ambient temperatures.”

If you want to keep everything safe, from your packages to your home, here are some EPA-registered cleaning products that can help you fight against coronavirus.

Can I Safely Order Takeout During the Pandemic?

While we must stay at home for as much as we can, we still have to eat. We already learned how to manage grocery shopping in-store, but how about ordering takeout? Here are some of the best practices to follow (similar to online shopping for any items):

  • Avoid meeting the food deliverers in person. Instead, use an app that already installed the option to limit in-person interactions with food couriers;
  • If you don’t want to pay extra delivery fees or wait hours on end to receive your food, try getting food directly from restaurants. Third-party apps can charge you extra, take hours on end for an order, and might not even work with so many people cramming to get deliveries.
  • If you don’t have the option to limit person-to-person interaction, use the delivery’s service or restaurant’s website to specify that you want the food left on your doorstep, company lobby, hotel reception, etc. Of course, if you order via phone, make sure the staff notes down this request;
  • Wash your hands before you unpack the food from its container;
  • Discard the container immediately and do not use any utensils that came together with the food. It is better to use your utensils for the time being.
  • Wash your hands after you discarded the packages and before you start eating;
  • Don’t forget to tip your deliverers. They have a very rough time these days and are some of the most vulnerable workers to getting the virus. However, tip them electronically if the applications or websites allow;
  • The ethical way of going about takeout is to support your local businesses and order food from the closest restaurants in your area to avoid deliverers to travel wide and far and thus risk even more exposure.

Am I Putting Carriers and Deliverers at Risk with My Online Shopping?


During this period, all postal workers, courier services, deliverers, and brands’ employees involved in the packaging and the processing of online purchases are dealing with increased online shopping and home deliveries.

Luckily, all deliverers are now applying safety measures when interacting with the population. If our front-line workers are not sick and we are not sick either, the chances of spreading coronavirus are very low. Already, USPS added enhanced safety measures for their workers at the beginning of March, and other delivery companies and services followed suit.

Specialists recommend we treat carriers and packages with the same care we did outside this pandemic or other:

  • do not cough or sneeze in the face of your delivery person;
  • touch hands as little as possible;
  • limit the use of cash;
  • wash your hands after you got the mail/package, etc.

Granted that our mail and delivery personnel are healthy and not working while sick, the risk of spreading the virus in that way is lower than person to person spread that has really fueled the outbreak.

says Dr. Niket Sonpal, Adjunct Professor at Touro College.

Smart Online Shopping during the Time of Covid-19: Bottom Line

With a bit of care and mindfulness, we can all enjoy safe delivery services of groceries, takeout, food, and other items. As long as we stay as much as we can inside, we respect the safety measures recommended by the authorities, and we approach our delivery workers with kindness, respect, and gratitude, caring for their safety as well, we should be able to cope better with the pandemic. Social isolation comes with plenty of issues, disrupting our lives. So hobbies and smart ways of spending time indoors are a must these days.


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