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Is shopping in stores safe during the pandemic?

There are ways to protect yourself from COVID-19 while shopping

Is shopping in stores safe during the pandemic?
Is shopping in stores safe during the pandemic?

Is shopping in stores safe during the pandemic?

There are ways to reduce risk, but health experts advise avoiding it when possible.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says holiday shopping in crowded stores is a “higher risk” activity and that people should limit any in-person shopping, including at supermarkets.

Instead, the agency recommends shopping online, visiting outdoor markets or using curbside pickup, where workers bring orders to your car.

If you need to enter a store, go during off hours when there will likely be fewer people. The Georgia Department of Public Health also suggests shopping during special hours for high-risk populations, if you fall into that category and a store offers such hours.

Wear a mask and stay at least 6 feet away from others. Use disinfecting wipes for your shopping cart or basket.

And no matter how much your nose itches, don’t touch it -- or your eyes or your mouth.

Try to spend as little time inside the store as possible, says Dr. Isaac Weisfuse, a public health expert at Cornell University.

“You just want to go in and out,” he says. “Get your shopping done and move on.”

When it’s time to pay, the Georgia Department of Public Health suggests using a touchless payment option. You can try downloading the store’s app or use something like Apple Pay, and if you do have to touch a keyboard or cash, use hand sanitizer right after.

Use a hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol when you leave, and then wash your hands with soap and water when you get home.

Retailers have been doing all kinds of things to make shoppers feel safe, but they don’t eliminate the risk. Some check shoppers’ temperatures at the entrance, for example, but an infected person may not have a fever and can still spread the virus.

The plastic barriers between customers and cashiers also might not block all droplets from an infected person, Weisfuse says. If the air in a store feels stuffy, he says that’s a sign of poor ventilation, and you should leave.


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

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About the Authors:

Storytelling is at the heart of what Alicia loves most about television news and she is thrilled to be a part of the News4Jax team.