The grocery store, your skin and Covid-19
We all need to eat, so this is a real question. I’m a doctor, and I love math and science, AND we also need to remember while statistics are important, they are not the whole story. Treating each other compassionately, not hoarding, and remembering that what is NOT in the fact equation is human ingenuity, creativity, energy, and love. These are equally important. Here are some FAQs I’m hearing frequently. I get my information from our hospital (I’m active staff) daily briefings, and the U.S. CDC (Center for Disease Control).
Should I wear gloves at the grocery store?
Last week, I saw a woman with gloves and a mask taking things off the grocery shelf with tongs. That’s overkill unless you are health compromised. Gloves (so far not considered PPEs) do NOT protect you very well, unless you change them constantly. And our countries will quickly run out of gloves if everyone insists on changing them 20 times a day. We need to save gloves for use mostly by medical personnel. She was then handling the items after taking them off the shelf with tongs.
You are far better off taking a small hand sanitizer with you to the grocery store. Some grocery stores are providing wipes. Wash your hands before going to the store, then use the hand sanitizer several times during your visit there, and then just as you leave the store again after checkout. Most grocery store’s here are also wiping down the main surfaces every hour or two.
The virus on our hands themselves isn’t the main problem. The problem is that we then touch our faces, or transfer the virus to other people through shaking hands or to surfaces. It can live on some surfaces for mostly short periods of time, like the regular flu and other viruses. We’ll likely have more data on surfaces in a few months.
What is a PPE?
A PPE is a Personal Protective Equipment. Operating room total covering, masks that have the eye shields, the N95 oval hard masks are considered PPEs. At least here, we are being asked to conserve regular masks (tie or earloop with NO plastic shield attached). Some hospitals now have a way to re-clean these making them safe to reuse. So far, there is not a shortage, and they are not considered PPEs. The N95 masks were used in our clinic, for example, for certain laser procedures that create smoke plumes. We are not open, except for emergencies (anyone who would go to an ER), so we are NOT using those masks.
How do I keep the virus off my skin at the store?
Keep in mind that the MAIN source of transmission is droplet spread from coughing or sneezing. If someone near you is not masked, and coughs or sneezes without a mask on, move 6 feet away. Using good hand washing technique and/or hand sanitizer will protect you also. The rest of your skin is not as big an issue, because you don’t tend to touch your face or other people with your knees, for example. You can’t contract the virus from someone passing by you quickly who is NOT coughing or sneezing.
Should I wear a mask at the grocery store? Which type?
If you are health compromised or older, try to have someone go to the grocery store for you. Many grocery stores now also have a delivery service. If you must go, use a regular mask unless your doctor has prescribed an N95 mask (see above) for you. Otherwise, current recommendations for the healthy are you do not need a mask.
What if I have allergies and have to sneeze?
If you are sneezing or coughing on a regular basis, STAY HOME! But what about the random sneeze? If you have to sneeze or cough, turn away from anyone nearby and cough or sneeze INTO YOUR ELBOW CROOK. Then wait about 10 seconds in that position before you lift your head. That contains the majority of any droplets. Then mutter loudly …. allergies! 🙂
Winston Churchill took over as prime minister a month before France surrendered to the Nazis. The German army was amassing on the west coast of France to invade the UK. He had to mobilize an entire nation with hope, and action. Not to mention increasing the production of fighter planes from 50 a month to 1,000 a month over a period of 6 weeks, and training more pilots. There were many naysayers. They said it was impossible. They said Britain shouldn’t fight it should just capitulate. They said most of the UK would die. He went on to lead Europe, the U.S., and the western world to a successful end to Hitler’s tyranny and expansion.
We can all do this if we remember to be in this together! And to support each other, always hope and to never give up on human creativity, ingenuity, and energy.
Hope this helps and please stay well everyone,