As the novel coronavirus spreads throughout the world, multitudes of people have had to stay at home. Many people are placing orders online for delivery to avoid public areas.
Whether ordering household supplies or takeout food, two questions remain;
- Can I get infected by handling or touching the surface of the package?
- Can I get infected by coming in contact with the driver?
Let’s take a look at the packages first. As you are probably aware of, the CDC has informed us that “Coronaviruses are generally thought to be spread most often by respiratory droplets.” Picture coughing or sneezing or being too close to someone else that is the main form of transmission of the coronavirus. Which is the reason for the social distance rules of keeping six feet separation that the CDC and other organizations have outlined.
But what if someone coughs or sneezes on the packages?
If this happens, the chances of spreading the virus is low. Evidence shows that the transmission of the virus in this way is very low. The CDC says that “because of poor survivability of these coronaviruses on surfaces, there is likely very low risk of spread from products or packaging.” Many factors affect coronavirus survivability on surfaces. Changes in ambient temperature and surroundings appear to disrupt the virus the most. Since packages are exposed to a range of variations in air and temperature, it is especially difficult for the coronavirus to survive and thrive on them.
Even though a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine shows the coronavirus can survive up to 24 hours on cardboard, it is still improbable packages you receive at your house are infected due to the effect of travel time and changes of outside temperatures to which the packages are exposed. This echoes back to the World Health Organization’s statement on their Q & A page. When asked if it is safe to receive packages from areas that have been infected by the COVID-19, the WHO replies by stating that it is not likely that a package becomes contaminated, or for someone to become infected from a package.
According to the FDA, there is no evidence of food or food packaging being associated with the transmission of COVID-19. Meaning in addition to the other non-food deliveries you receive, the packages a restaurant uses to deliver your food or the food packaging at the store are not likely to be infected by the coronavirus. As Professor Benjamin Chapman said in a CNN article, “I want to be clear that food or the packages could carry the virus, but the risk of transmission is very, very low… This is a remote possibility and thousands if not millions of times less likely than any of the other exposure routes. Really, really low risk.”
Epidemiologists agree, continues Chapman, that there is not a risk factor for coronavirus and other respiratory diseases on packages
“Even with the millions of cases of influenza each year, packaging isn’t something we talk about.”
Having seen the low risk of infection from packages, we still need to deal with the issue of interaction with the delivery personnel.
Thankfully contactless deliveries are now available. Contactless delivery is the method of delivery many companies are offering to provide a means of safely delivering food and other items while avoiding direct contact between the delivery personnel and the client.
Food companies like Dominos are offering contactless deliveries as well as giving the customer the option of choosing and indicating where their order is delivered, say, on the porch, or by the garage door. This option avoids direct contact with a delivery driver. Another way to diminish physical contact is to tip the delivery person electronically whenever possible.
UPS is modifying its Signature Required guidelines, not requiring some packages to have signatures at this time. This means there are more options available to remain safe while receiving packages and interacting with delivery personnel.
The How to Protect Yourself webpage from the CDC says that in addition to washing your hands often and avoiding close contact, which are the best ways to protect yourself, you can also clean and disinfect surfaces you suspect are contaminated.
They explain how to make disinfecting solutions by diluting 4 teaspoons of household bleach in one quart of water or using alcohol solutions of at least 70% alcohol.
If you feel you need other ways to disinfect the packages or deliveries you ordered, you can use any of the cleaners mentioned in the EPA list of disinfectants against the COVID-19. Included in the list are Lysol Disinfectant Wipes, Clorox Disinfecting Wipes, and Hitman Wipe, among others.
Staying safe during this time should be a top priority. It is essential to understand the risk we face and to know how to protect ourselves best. For the most part, it is safe to continue to receive packages and deliveries during this time of the novel coronavirus.
For added protection, you can follow the safety and cleaning tips mentioned in this article. As mentioned, the most effective way to prevent the spread of the virus is with good hygiene and social distancing from others.
Including washing your hands often, especially after going to the store or having interactions with others or touching any surfaces that you suspect to be contaminated with the coronavirus.
For more information about coronavirus precautions, call the CDC information number at 800-232-4636.