It’s hard to know what’s safe and what’s not in this global pandemic. Can the COVID-19 coronavirus be transmitted on pieces of mail? In the food you eat? On the packaging your takeout food arrives in? On your morning newspaper?
Most information about the virus indicates that’s unlikely, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
There is no evidence as yet of food-borne coronavirus, according to the CDC. Public health specialists recommend that everyone preparing food wash their hands for 20 seconds before beginning food preparation. Diners should exercise recommended hand hygiene, as well.
Ditto the wrappers food comes in: They are not likely to host coronavirus.
COVID-19 is spread most commonly through airborne respiratory particles from sneezes and coughs, from person to person. Particles can land on an object, and someone can pick them up by touching them. That’s why health care professionals recommend, repeatedly, not touching your face and being vigilant about washing your hands. But the lifespan of the virus on a nonhuman host is not that great, experts say.
Though reports from China this week said the government has ordered cash be washed to prevent spread of the virus, there is no evidence to support transmission of the virus through imported goods from China or anywhere else, according to the CDC.
The risk of the virus lingering on mail or a delivery box or bag or the plastic wrapper The Daily News comes wrapped in is very low, according to the CDC.
But nothing in this science-fiction-like scenario is certain, said Dr. Philip Keiser, Galveston County’s local health authority.
“The bottom line is you don’t know, so the question is how big a risk is it? In the case of mail or packaging, it’s not very big,” he said.
Still, if you’re concerned, pick up your food container, get the food out, then wash your hands, preferably for 20 seconds. Grab the paper off the front porch, dispose of the plastic wrapper, then wash your hands.
Spraying food packages with disinfectant is not advised, Keiser said.
Keiser’s advice to people becoming more and more concerned about what they touch, and for good reason, is to be conscious of where they’re putting their hands.
“If your hands have touched something that you’re concerned might have come in contact with the virus, pick it up, take out what you need, throw away the container, then wash your hands.
“Most things are not infected and most things are not going to give you COVID-19,” he said. “Be mindful. Be careful. If you don’t know where something’s been, then pick it up and get rid of it and don’t touch your face. Then wash your hands.”