We are working to answer trending questions in our community regarding COVID-19. For the last few days we have received many questions regarding regarding how safe it is to purchase groceries during the COVID-19 outbreak. We have also been asked about what steps you should take if you think a co-worker has tested positive for COVID-19. Health care professionals are encouraging citizens at this point to assume everyone is positive. In doing this, hopefully you will take the precautions that will keep you safe, like social distancing, washing your hands and sheltering in place as much as possible.
First we will address food safety. We reached out to the FDA and here is their response to our question:
Should I take additional measures during the COVID-19 pandemic to mitigate the risk of SARS-CoV-2 coming into my home on food and food packaging?
Currently there is no evidence of food or food packaging being associated with the transmission of COVID-19. It may be possible that a person can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes, but this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads. CDC notes that in general, because of poor survivability of these coronaviruses on surfaces, there is likely very low risk of spread from food products or packaging that are shipped over a period of days or weeks at ambient, refrigerated, or frozen temperatures. It is more likely that a person will be exposed by person-to-person transmission involving close contact with someone who is ill or shedding the virus.
Consumers can follow CDC guidelines on how to protect yourself, especially the advice on frequent hand washing with soap and water for at least 20 seconds; and frequent cleaning and disinfecting of surfaces.
If you are concerned about contamination of food and food packaging you have purchased from the grocery store, wash your hands after handling food and food packages when you return from the grocery store and after removing packaging from food. In addition, it’s always critical to follow the 4 key steps of food safety—clean, separate, cook, and chill – to prevent foodborne illness. FDA also has advice about safely selecting and serving raw produce.
Local Grocery Stores Taking Extra Precautions
Bi-Lo Statesboro has implemented extra steps they are taking to protect their customers and employees. They have sanitizing wipes at the entrance and encourage customers to use these to wipe down their shopping cart. They have staff throughout the story on regular rotations wiping down and sanitizing touch points. They have also put signage up around the store encouraging social distancing. At the check out lines they have signage and tape on the floor to space customers out six feet. They have also ordered Plexiglas shields that will be installed at every register to give an extra layer of protection within the next two weeks.
In addition, Bi-Lo has adjusted their hours from 8 am to 8 pm daily. They are offering special hours from 8 am to 9 am for high risk individuals, which include Senior adults. Also, on Monday and Tuesday from 8 PM to 9 PM they are staying open an hour longer for health care, public safety and first responders.
Local retailers are also encouraging customers to please come alone or with only one other person if absolutely necessary. Please to not bring the entire family to the stores if possible.
Everyone seems to have suggestions or ideas of how you should grocery shop. There are two different videos that offer suggestions on how you should protect yourself. The first video is for most of us. The second takes extra precautions for high risk or immune deficiency individuals and the elderly.
One of my employees has tested positive for COVID-19. Now what?
The CDC has issued an Interim Guidance for Businesses regarding COVID-19 that covers all aspects of preparing, reporting and handling positive cases.
From the guidance they state that if an employee is confirmed to have COVID-19 infection, employers should inform fellow employees of their possible exposure to COVID-19 in the workplace but maintain confidentiality as required by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The fellow employees should then self-monitor for symptoms (i.e., fever, cough, or shortness of breath). Many employees are upset or concerned that co-workers who are being tested or may have tested positive are not identified. By law, the employer can not identify the person of concern.
Again, for your safety and the safety of others, it is important to please take the CDC recommendations seriously and assume everyone you come in contact with is positive.