How to Avoid COVID Germs While Shopping This Holiday Season

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FILE – In this file photo from Nov. 25, 2011, shoppers grab televisions at a store in Knoxville, Tennessee, minutes after it opens. (AP Photo / The News Sentinel, Wade Payne)

INDIANAPOLIS – During the final stretch of the year, last-minute holiday shopping draws larger-than-normal crowds in malls and other stores across the country. However, that puts the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly in light of the omicron variant, right on the storefront.

Of course, masks, vaccines, and online shopping help prevent the spread, but for those who have no choice but to go to a store, there are a few things to keep in mind, such as: what to bring, the dirtiest places in stores and how to clean / quarantine gifts.

What to bring

  • Disinfectant wipes
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Contactless payment, like cards or Apple Pay
  • Latex gloves

The dirtiest places in stores

Many diseases and conditions are spread by unclean hands. So, naturally, the areas and items in a store with the most germs are those with high manual traffic, where many different people would have control over them throughout the day.

  • The shopping cart. Perhaps one of the germiest places in a store besides the money itself, it was discovered that shopping carts had 8,112 bacteria colonies per square inch. A toilet handle, on the other hand, only has 30 bacteria colonies per square inch. In swabs and random tests on shopping carts across the United States that 72 percent of carts were detected to have coliforms, a bacteria found in the stool of all warm-blooded animals and humans. E. coli was also identified on 51 percent of shopping carts.

    It is ideal, when handling shopping carts, to wipe them down with disinfectant wipes. Be sure to wipe down the handle, child seat, edge of the basket, and any other areas that have been heavily used throughout the day.

  • Door handles. While many stores now use automatic doors on their entrances and exits, there are still many other doors, such as refrigerator and toilet doors, which carry many colonies of germs. Studies have been carried out on hospital doors testing for bacterial contamination have found that door handles are among the most overlooked when it comes to cleaning / disinfection, despite the large amount of bacteria (such as E. coli and MRSA) that lives on the handles. It would be beneficial to wipe down the handles before and after touching them, or wear latex gloves to prevent germs from coming into contact with the skin.
  • Elevator buttons. To avoid touching each other, new tools are invented to press buttons, open doors and perform other tasks to avoid spreading germs. Of course, the gloves would also prevent germs from coming into contact with the skin.
  • Touch screens. Tools and other gadgets meant to prevent touching would not work against a checkout touchscreen or cell phone. Many touchscreens also don’t register a glove, creating an awkward situation for people trying to protect themselves. Self-service checkout touchscreens see a 97x germ growth from the start to the end of the day, despite attempts by staff to disinfect.

    It would be beneficial to wipe down the self-service checkout with a disinfectant wipe before and after scanning and packaging all items. It would also be a good time to use hand sanitizer to sanitize your hands before you can wash them when you get home.

How to clean / quarantine gifts

  • Items like products are often squeezed, patted, or otherwise touched to test the ripeness of foods. It is important to thoroughly wash the products under clean running water before consuming them.
  • Individual items should be quarantined before they are wrapped and wrapped for gifting to others. It has been stated that 24 hours is an acceptable time for the quarantine of materials, especially since the CDC does not care too much about paper and other inanimate objects transmitting COVID-19. After quarantine, the space should be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected.

The CDC has published guides on how to disinfect and clean your residence and other facilities as well as the different types of surfaces that compose them.

Of course, hand washing, masks, and vaccinations are effective in protecting yourself and others. Those who wish to be vaccinated can do so in line or by asking nearby pharmacies that offer the vaccine.

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