(LONDON) — Storm Dennis roared across Britain with high winds and heavy rains Sunday, prompting authorities to issue a record number of flood warnings and alerts for England and a rare “red warning” for extremely life-threatening flooding in Wales.
The Met Office, Britain’s meteorological service, only issues its highest red warning when it thinks the weather will be so dangerous there’s a “risk to life” and that people must take immediate action to protect themselves. It was the first time a red warning has been sounded since December 2015.
Four hours later, the south Wales alert was downgraded to “amber,” which still warns of significant impact from the weather and a “potential risk to life.” The Met Office also had four other amber warnings in place in England and Wales following the torrential downpours.
Wales appeared to be bearing the brunt of the two-day storm after a month’s rain fell in the space of 48 hours. South Wales Police declared a “major incident” following multiple floods, landslides and evacuations. And Gwent Police said residents of Skenfrith, Monmouthshire, were being advised to evacuate due to the flooding.
The Met Office said the highest wind gust recorded was 91 mph (146 kph) at Aberdaron in north Wales on Saturday. It also said a total of 157.6 mm (6.1 inches) of rain fell at Crai Reservoir in the Welsh county of Powys over 48 hours to Sunday morning.
The River Taff burst its banks in the Welsh town of Pontypool and severe flood warning have been issued for the River Neath in south Wales and the River Teme further north.
As the wet and windy weather started to clear across parts of the south, the number of flood warnings across the U.K. declined but there were still around 350 of them in place Sunday, from the north of Scotland through to Cornwall in southwest England.
John Curtin, the executive director of flood and coastal risk management at the Environment Agency, said in a tweet that at one point during the day, England had the most flood warnings and lower-level alerts in force — 594 — than on any other day on record.
The local authority in Herefordshire, an English county that borders central Wales, declared a “major incident” amid widespread flooding and said it was focusing on making sure “ vulnerable residents are evacuated.” West Mercia Police, also declared a “major incident” for Shropshire, another county in central England that borders Wales.
Flood warnings could remain in place for a while since much of Britain is still saturated from last week’s Storm Ciara, which left eight people dead across Europe.
“Whilst the heaviest rain has cleared from Northern Ireland and Scotland, England and Wales will continue to see heavy rain on Sunday, with a risk of severe flooding in places,” said Andy Page, the Met Office’s chief meteorologist.
The fourth named storm of Europe’s winter season has already been blamed for the deaths of two men who were pulled Saturday from the sea in separate searches off England’s southeastern coast.
Hundreds of flights were cancelled due to the high winds while train services were repeatedly disrupted by flooding, affecting tens of thousands of passengers as British families leave for the mid-winter school break.
On Saturday, around 75 British army personnel and 70 reservists helped out communities in the flood-hit Calder Valley region in West Yorkshire, constructing flood barriers and repairing damaged flood defenses.
Whales May Face More Fatal Ship Collisions as Ocean Temperatures Warm
(PORTLAND, Maine) — Climate change is imperiling the world’s largest animals by increasing the likelihood of fatal collisions between whales and big ships that ply the same waters.
Warming ocean temperatures are causing some species of whales in pursuit of food to stray more frequently into shipping lanes, scientists say.
The phenomenon already has increased ship strikes involving rare North Atlantic right whales on the East Coast and giant blue whales on the West Coast, researchers say. The number of strikes off California increased threefold in 2018 — to at least 10 — compared to previous years.
When whales are killed in a ship collision, they often sink and don’t always wash ashore. So scientists and conservationists say fatal ship strikes are dramatically under-reported.
Vessels strikes are among the most frequent causes of accidental death in large whales, along with entanglement in fishing gear. Conservationists, scientists and animals lovers have pushed for the International Maritime Organization to step up to protect the whales, but it won’t happen without cooperation from the worldwide shipping industry.
For the right whales, which number only about 400 and have lost more than 10% of their population in just a few years, the death toll is driving them closer to extinction, said Nick Record, senior research scientist at Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences in East Boothbay, Maine.
At least three right whales died from ship strikes in 2019 — a small number, but still dangerously high for so small a population. All three deaths were documented in the Gulf of Saint Lawrence off Canada, where scientists have said the whales are spending more time feeding as waters off New England warm.
Scientists say the changing ocean environment with global warming is causing right whales and some other species to stray outside protected zones designed to keep them safe from ships.
“When one of their main food resources goes away, it means they start exploring new areas for food,” Record said. “And that means they’re encountering all new sources of mortality because they are going into these places where they are not protected.”
On the West Coast, where there was increase in whale ship strike deaths, scientists reported that the risk of such accidents has been growing in the 2000s as the blue whale population shifted northward in the North Pacific.
The increased ship strikes could necessitate “a broader area where ships don’t travel,” said Jessica Redfern, an ecologist with New England Aquarium’s Anderson Cabot Center for Ocean Life and lead author of a study published in the journal Frontiers in Marine Science in February.
Moving shipping lanes, and the possibility of enforcing slower speeds for large ships, is a subject of much debate among conservation groups, international regulators and the shipping industry.
Shippers say they have made attempts to work with conservationists, such as an ongoing effort to move a shipping lane in Sri Lankan waters to protect blue whales. In a statement to The Associated Press, the World Shipping Council expressed a willingness to keep working to keep shipping activity away from whales, but expressed skepticism about whether slowing vessels would help.
“Reduced ship speeds also increase the residence time of a ship in a given area where whales are active,” the council said. “Given those factors, there is some notable uncertainty about how effective reducing ship speeds is in lowering the risk of whale strikes.”
Changes to international shipping laws would have to go before the International Maritime Organization, which regulates shipping. The organization has taken numerous steps to protect whales in the past, including agreeing in 2014 to a recommendation for ships to reduce speed to 10 knots (11.5 miles per hour) off the Pacific coast of Panama for four months every summer and fall.
A spokeswoman for the organization declined to comment on the role of warming seas in increased ship strikes. But the subject has caught the attention of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which oversees marine issues in the U.S.
Right whales, in particular, began showing a change in migratory behavior around 2010, said Vince Saba, a fisheries biologist with NOAA’s Northeast Fisheries Science Center. That happened as warm Gulf Stream water has entered the Gulf of Maine, a key habitat for the whales, he said.
“With that redistribution, the animals have moved into areas where there weren’t management rules in place to protect them. In a sense, the deck got reshuffled,” said Sean Hayes, head of the protected species branch for the fisheries science center.
Whales also face increased threat because ships now can travel in parts of the sea that were previously ice, said Regina Asmutis-Silvia, a scientist with Massachusetts-based Whale and Dolphin Conservation. As waters continue to warm, the whales will need more protections or the number of deaths will only grow, she said.
“The reality is that it’s time to actually implement the mitigation and that’s going to mean expanding areas where the speed rules would be in place,” she said.
Trump Mulls Metro NYC Quarantine; U.K. Cases Surge: Virus Update
(Bloomberg) — President Donald Trump said a quarantine may be imposed on metropolitan New York, the disease’s U.S. epicenter. The U.K. had its deadliest 24 hours. Spain had record fatalities for a second straight day.Michigan may become the next U.S. hotspot as Trump approved a disaster declaration for the state.Russia is closing its borders after a sharp rise in cases over a week, Sweden is conducting random testing in Stockholm and Japan is planning an “unprecedented” stimulus.Key Developments:Cases top 621,000; 28,600 dead, 135,000 recovered: Johns HopkinsSpain reports 832 deaths, exceeding Friday’s recordU.K. fatalities jump 34% in one dayAbbott gets emergency approval for five-minute testTrump signs $2.2 trillion aid packageJapan plans supplementary budget, cash handoutsSubscribe to a daily update on the virus from Bloomberg’s Prognosis team here.Click VRUS on the terminal for news and data on the coronavirus and here for maps and charts. For analysis of the impact from Bloomberg Economics, click here. For BNEF’s view of the impact on energy, click here.U.S. Mulls Metro NYC Quarantine (12:23 p.m. NY)President Trump said he’s considering an enforced quarantine in areas of New York and New Jersey to curb the outbreak.Trump told reporters he had spoken with New York Governor Andrew Cuomo before departing the White House to send off a Navy hospital ship bound for New York City from Norfolk, Virginia.The president said he’d rather not impose such a quarantine but that the country may need it. Asked about his ambition to urge many Americans to return to work by the Easter holiday on April 12, Trump said “we’ll see what happens.”New York and New Jersey have more than half the U.S. Covid-19 cases.Northern Italy Deaths Near 6,000 (12:10 p.m. NY)Deaths in Italy’s northern Lombardy region rose by 542 to 5,944, according to a person familiar with the matter. New cases in the area around Milan rose by 2,117 to 39,415, the person said, asking not to be named because Lombardy’s data aren’t public.Lombardy has been at the epicenter of Italy’s outbreak, which is the worst in Europe with more than 86,000 cases. The region accounts for almost half of all cases in Italy.Michigan Cases Top U.S. Rate (12:05 p.m. NY)Michigan is becoming the next U.S. coronavirus hotspot, registering new cases at more than triple the national rate. The state had 3,657 cases as of Friday — versus zero just over two weeks ago — and now ranks fifth in the nation. At least 92 people have died.Impoverished Detroit and surrounding Wayne County made up half the state total. Suburban Oakland County, home for thousands of white-collar auto jobs, had 23% of cases.Other Midwestern cities are posting sharp increases. Cook County, Illinois, which includes Chicago, saw cases rise from 413 at the end of last week to more than 1,900 Friday, according to data from the University of Chicago. The county accounts for three-quarters of the state’s total.Outbreaks in Louisiana, Arkansas and Tennesee also accelerated recently. Cases in Nashville’s Davidson County quadrupled in a week, as did those in Orleans Parish, Louisiana.Read the full story hereSerbia Expands Mandatory Isolation (11:55 a.m. NY)Serbia doubled the mandatory isolation period for people returning from abroad to 28 days and extended the weekend curfew by two hours as total infections jumped the most in a day on Saturday.The biggest former Yugoslav republic reported 131 new cases, bringing the total to 659. Ten people have died and about as many are in critical condition, Health Minister Zlatibor Loncar said.Russia to Shut Borders (11:40 a.m. NY)Russia will temporarily shut its borders starting March 30 after a sharp increase in infections in the past week. on Saturday, health officials reported 228 new cases overnight, bringing the total to 1,264, with four deaths.The order, posted on the government website, followed increasingly harsh limits on movement. Moscow’s mayor shut all non-essential business on Saturday and recommended everyone stay home. The government halted international flights on Friday and Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin called on regions to close most businesses, but stopped short of issuing an order.The government is considering a temporary halt of domestic flights and trains, Interfax reported, citing an unidentified official.Read the story hereU.K. Has Most Deaths in a Day (10:30 a.m. NY)The U.K. reported a 34% increase in deaths in one day, its biggest surge since the outbreak began.Fatalities jumped by 260, to 1,019, as of late Friday, the Department of Health and Social Care reported. There were 17,089 confirmed cases Saturday, up from 14,543 a day earlier. The government is expanding testing for hospital staff and building new facilities near London, Birmingham and Manchester.Denmark’s Premier Pledges to Reopen ASAP (10:44 a.m. NY)Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen on Facebook said she doesn’t think it will be several months before Denmark reopens, responding to speculation that limits could remain in place for several months. “We don’t want to keep Denmark under lock down for one day more than necessary,” Frederiksen said in the posting.Portugal Deaths Rise (10:20 a.m. NY)Portugal’s cases rose 20% in one day and deaths climbed to 100 from 76, a fraction of the fatalities in neighboring European nations.Deaths so far indicate a fatality rate of 1.9%, but 7.9% for those more than 70 years old, Health Minister Marta Temido said in Lisbon. The peak of infections may occur at the end of May, based on current data, she said. “This indicates that the containment measures that we’ve adopted, namely that people stay at home except to go to work, are being effective,” Temido said.Trump Clears State Funding (9:15 a.m. NY)President Trump approved disaster declarations for Michigan and Massachusetts on Friday. He has approved declarations for more than a dozen states, making them eligible for certain federal funding.Earlier, Trump complained that Gretchen Whitmer, Michigan’s Democratic governor, as well as her counterpart in Washington, don’t appreciate his administration’s efforts to combat the coronavirus epidemic, and said Vice President Mike Pence shouldn’t take their calls.Namibia Shuts Mines, Quarries (8:45 a.m. NY)Namibia, the world’s top producer of marine diamonds and the fifth-biggest of uranium. halted mining and quarrying operations to curb the outbreak, Minister of Mines and Energy Tom Alweendo said. The semi-arid southwest African nation will allow minimal operations and critical maintenance work. Namibia, with eight virus cases, imposed a partial lockdown of the capital, Windhoek.Study Cuts U.K. Death Estimate (7:47 a.m. NY)The number of coronavirus fatalities in Britain could be much lower than previously estimated thanks to social distancing, according to a new paper from statisticians at Imperial College London, the Times reported. That’s a sharp drop from previous analysis that suggested fatalities from the virus could be 260,000 if Britain maintained its previous policy of less restrictive interventions.Prime Minister Boris Johnson became the first world leader to reveal he has Covid-19 yesterday.Sweden Begins Random Testing (7:27 a.m.)Swedish health authorities have begun random testing in Stockholm to help contain the spread of the coronavirus, Sveriges Radio reported.About 1,000 people will undergo testing, the broadcaster reported, citing state epidemiologist Anders Tegnell. Switzerland is also going to start testing for antibodies next week to see if people have already had the virus, and once the test is more readily available, those tests will be done on a grander scale, the health ministry said on a webcast.Spain’s Deadliest Day (6:42 a.m. NY)Spain said 832 people died from coronavirus in the last 24 hours, its deadliest day since the outbreak began. That brings total fatalities to 5,690 after the country recorded 769 deaths on Friday.Health Minister Salvador Illa warned on Friday that the pandemic has yet to reach its peak in Spain.Germany to Stay Locked Down (6:37 a.m. NY)German Chancellor Angela Merkel said the country’s lockdown rules are unlikely to be relaxed because they are needed to protect the health-care system.Her chief of staff, Helge Braun, separately told newspaper Der Tagesspiegel it has been decided to keep the current measures largely in place until April 20.Loss of Smell Key Symptom (6:30 a.m. NY)The coronavirus is capable of attacking key cells in the nose, which may explain the unusual finding that some Covid-19 sufferers lose their ability to smell and taste, Harvard Medical School researchers found.Their study of human and mice genomic data found certain cells at the back of the nose harbor the distinctly shaped proteins that the coronavirus targets to invade the body. Infection of these cells could directly or indirectly lead to an altered sense of smell, they said in a paper published Saturday.Japan Stimulus to Exceed Financial Crisis (5:30 p.m. HK)Japan will extend economic stimulus on an “unprecedented scale” in response to the outbreak, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said.There will be cash handouts for citizens and the government will act to protect regional employment, he said in a televised press briefing on Saturday. The government actions will be on a larger scale than that of the financial crisis more than a decade ago, he said.Abe said a supplementary budget will be passed as soon as possible, as he cautioned that the battle against the virus will be a long one. Japan is preparing its virus-related policities with the worst-case scenario in mind, the prime minister said.Dutch Hospitals to Reach ICU Bed Capacity (5 p.m. HK)Dutch hospitals will probably reach full capacity of intensive care unit beds on Sunday due to the pandemic, local newspaper Trouw writes, citing numbers from a medical association. The government is currently in talks with Germany to see if it can transfer intenive-care patients. Doctors have also started calling elderly people at home to ask if they want to be treated in the hospital or at home if they get Covid-19, causing panic among older citizens, newspaper Telegraaf reported.Later, Philips delivered the first 100 of 1,000 ventilators to the Netherlands from the U.S. The devices will help to increase the number of ICU beds.Hubei Border Clash After Quarantine Lifted (3:45 p.m. HK)Dozens of people clashed on the Hubei border after the Chinese government lifted a two-month quarantine on the epicenter of the country’s coronavirus outbreak. The conflict began Friday morning on a bridge connecting Hubei and neighboring Jiangxi province as policemen from both sides argued over how to verify if people were allowed to enter Jiangxi, according to local media reports.The two counties issued a joint statement on Saturday, saying checkpoints between them would be removed and no special documentation would be needed to cross.Tokyo Sees Biggest Daily Increase in Cases (3:30 p.m. HK)New coronavirus infections in Tokyo rose by more than 60 on Saturday, the biggest daily increase yet, according to Kyodo News. The rise comes amid a critical weekend for the capital, where people have been asked — though not forced — to stay at home.Iran to Punish Those Who Ignore Social Distancing Rules (3 p.m. HK)Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said people who ignore social distancing rules aimed at stopping the spread of the coronavirus would be punished.“Anyone who doesn’t want to listen or chooses to resist will face harsher measures this time around,” Rouhani said in a television broadcast. “Punishments are in place to that end, but hopefully we will never get there.”This week authorities introduced stricter measures to combat the outbreak, including a ban on intercity travel and the closing of parks and other public spaces.The country’s oil, power facilities and fuel supply have been unaffected by the outbreak, the president added.Singapore Advises Public to Stay Indoors, Shop Online (1:05 p.m. HK)Singapore advised its public to stay at home in its latest effort to curb the spread of the coronavirus, a day after Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said the city state is facing a grave economic challenge posed by the pandemic.The public should only head to malls for essential items such as food, the government said in an advisory on its official WhatsApp channel, suggesting that people “buy food and groceries online.”Mexico’s AMLO Encourages Shopping in Public Markets (11:19 a.m. HK)Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said people should shop in public markets to support small businesses during the coronavirus outbreak.“Those at the top know how to defend themselves; they can resist,” he said in a video posted on Facebook. “Those at the bottom have a hard time in times of crisis”The president has been criticized for his response to the virus, though he appeared to be changing tone recently. The Health Ministry has advised people to maintain social distance from one another to inhibit the virus’s spread.China Signals Ramped-Up Stimulus (10:26 a.m. HK)China’s top leaders pledged to widen the fiscal deficit and sell sovereign debt, signaling that Beijing is preparing larger-scale stimulus to counter the economic fallout from the virus.China will increase its fiscal deficit as a share of gross domestic product, issue special sovereign debt and allow local governments to sell more infrastructure bonds as part of a package to stabilize the economy, according to a Politburo meeting on Wednesday, Xinhua reported late Friday.Singapore Defense Forum Called Off (10 a.m. HK)The Shangri-La Dialogue, a high-profile regional security forum held annually in Singapore, has been canceled due to the coronavirus outbreak.The forum, usually attended by ministerial-level delegates and top defense officials globally, was scheduled to be held from June 5-7. This is the first time the event is being canceled since its inception in 2002.Australian State Introduces Social Distance Fines (9:45 a.m. HK)In the Australian state of Victoria, police have been given power to issue on-the-spot fines of up to A$1,652 ($1,020) for individuals and A$9,913 for businesses who don’t follow rules on social distancing or limits on gatherings. Premier Dan Andrews said he wouldn’t hesitate to close beaches after police were forced to disperse hundreds of people sunbathing on Melbourne’s St. Kilda beach on Friday.Australia’s death toll from the coronavirus outbreak has risen to 14, according to government figures released Saturday. The number of confirmed infections stood at 3,635 as of Saturday afternoon, an increase of 469 from Friday afternoon.China Says All New Virus Cases on March 27 Imported (9:30 a.m. HK)China’s National Health Commission said all 54 new coronavirus cases reported on March 27 were imported, as an order to seal the borders to most foreigners takes effect Saturday.China had 81,394 confirmed cases as of March 27, with 649 of those imported, according to a statement on NHC’s website. The death toll rose by three to 3,295, with all new deaths reported in Hubei province. Discharged patients rose by 383 to 74,971.Abbott Launches Five-Minute Virus Test (7:31 a.m. HK)Abbott Laboratories is unveiling a coronavirus test that can tell if someone is infected in as little as five minutes, and is so small and portable it can be used in almost any health-care setting.The medical-device maker plans to supply 50,000 tests a day starting April 1, said John Frels, vice president of research and development at Abbott Diagnostics. The molecular test looks for fragments of the coronavirus genome, which can be detected in as little as five minutes when it’s present at high levels. A thorough search to definitively rule out an infection can take up to 13 minutes, he said.Read full story hereFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.
How Can You Safely Grocery Shop in the Time of Coronavirus? Here’s What Experts Suggest
With many governments enforcing shelter-in-place orders in an attempt to stem the spread of COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, heading to the store for food and essential supplies has become one of the only times many people leave their homes. Prepping for the trip can feel overwhelming: Should you wear gloves or a mask? Should you wipe down that tomato? What’s the safest way to pay?
To answer these questions and more, TIME reached out to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and other public health experts about what steps you can take to protect yourself and those around you while grocery shopping. Here’s what to know.
Is it better to order groceries online or go to the store?
If you can afford to, it’s best to order food online, experts say. Delivery services dramatically reduce your contact with other people: you pay online, it’s packaged elsewhere and the food is left outside your door.
“I’ve heard there are wait times, but if you can use that option it would definitely be better than going out,” says Dr. Joshua Petrie, an assistant research professor of epidemiology at University of Michigan’s School of Public Health.
A spokesperson for the CDC also tells TIME in an email that ordering online can be a good alternative for high-risk people. She adds, “And if you have any symptoms of illness, please stay home to protect your own health, as well as the health of others.”
However, as Dr. Craig Hedberg, a professor in the environmental health sciences division of the University of Minnesota’s School of Public Health, writes in an email, “[You] are still relying on the health and hygiene habits of the people who assemble your order and deliver it.”
A spokesperson for the CDC tells TIME that “[currently] there is no evidence to support transmission of COVID-19 associated with food or food packaging.” However, you should always wash your hands before and after handling food. The CDC also recommends you wash your hands again after you unload your groceries, and clean kitchen surfaces like countertops, cabinet handles and light switches.
What are the best ways to practice social distancing at the store?
Many people have no choice but to visit a grocery store in person. Dr. Lauren Sauer, an assistant professor of emergency medicine at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, says your primary concern while shopping should be the risk of contracting the virus from other people, not from food or surfaces in the store. While there’s a chance the virus could be transmitted on a surface, “you’re most likely to get this from another person,” she explains.
So try to maintain a distance of at least six feet from other people, the CDC spokesperson says. Sauer also adds that it’s incumbent for people to “take responsibility” to social distance, as “not everyone is going to be respectful of that six feet.” If you see a crowded aisle, skip it or wait for people to leave.
“Avoid racing to get the last of an item on the shelf. Follow guidelines that may be posted at the store. Be patient,” Hedberg writes.
Standing so far apart from people might feel uncomfortable, Dr. Jessica Justman, an associate professor of medicine in epidemiology at Columbia University, warns. People in the U.S. tend to have conversations two or three feet apart, she explains, so doubling that can feel alien. Still, it’s necessary right now.
Sauer suggests shopping at a store that’s already enforcing social distancing, such as requiring people to stand six feet apart in line or only allowing a certain number of customers in at once. Many national chains have announced precautions they’ll be taking moving forward, and you can also call your local store and ask ahead before you leave the house. “You want to pick a store that’s really paying attention and making it safer for customers to go in,” Justman says.
Sauer also suggests that, when possible, leave your kids and other family members at home. It’s probably safest if only one person in each household does all the shopping, not only because it lowers the household’s exposure but also because it reduces the total number of people in stores, she says. “We don’t really understand how kids transmit the virus,” Sauer adds. “It could be that little kids are sick and we just don’t know, so you want to reduce their interaction more broadly.”
And definitely don’t go to the store if you’re feeling sick, Petrie stresses. Ask someone else to go for you.
What are the best ways to safely touch things in the store?
While you should be most concerned about the other people in the store, the virus can also live on surfaces, says Dr. Christopher Gill, an associate professor of global health at the Boston University School of Public Health. It’s possible someone who is infected coughs, and droplets containing the virus land on a surface that you then touch. A March 17 study in the New England Journal of Medicine found that the virus could live for two to three days on plastic and stainless steel, up to 24 hours on cardboard, and up to four hours on copper.
So it’s best to be cautious. A spokesperson for the CDC recommends people clean their shopping cart or basket—specifically the handles and other surface areas—either with their own disinfectant wipes or wipes provided by the store. (Many stores have already started providing wipes near the carts.)
Sauer recommends bringing hand sanitizer to the store if it’s available to you, and using it after every time you come in contact with “high touch surfaces” — like cart handles.
Gill says you should assume the virus has gotten on surfaces around the store, so try to touch as few things as possible, and avoid touching your nose, face and mouth. Hedberg also suggests placing raw food in a bag “to prevent direct contact with the cart.”
Sauer also recommends using a paper shopping list, rather than your phone, while you’re in the store. You can throw the list away when you’re done, and it doesn’t risk transferring viral particles to your phone. “The less you can touch your personal items in public spaces, the better,” she explains. She also suggests using hand sanitizer the moment you leave the store—especially before you get in the car and touch the steering wheel.
Then, make sure to wash your hands as soon as you can. The CDC spokesperson recommends people wash their hands with soap and water “for at least 20 seconds before and after shopping.”
Keep up to date with our daily coronavirus newsletter by clicking here.
Should people wear a mask or gloves to the store?
If you’re sick and have to leave your house—which experts strongly advise against—you should wear a mask to stop the spread of infectious droplets.
But what if you’re not sick? The CDC currently does not recommend people wear gloves or a face mask in public unless they “have been exposed and are displaying symptoms of the virus,” according to an agency spokesperson
Personal protective equipment like gloves or masks can give people “a false sense of security,” Sauer explains. You might be less determined to not touch your face or wash your hands. “You [also] have a higher risk of exposing yourself to something if you take the gloves and mask off wrong,” she adds.
Hedberg writes that wearing a mask will “do little to prevent you from exposure to a virus” if you are near people who are infected.
While gloves stop the virus from getting on your skin, they don’t stop you from touching the cart handle then touching your face, which could transmit the virus. The best thing you can do to protect yourself is not touch your face, use hand sanitizer and wash your hands as soon as possible, Gill says.
Petrie also points out that gloves and masks are much more necessary for healthcare workers, and “there’s already lots of shortages of those sort of supplies in our hospitals where they’re really needed.”
“I don’t think [gloves or masks] would reduce your risk enough to warrant using them,” he says.
How can you pay safely?
You want to minimize your contact with other people as much as possible, experts say. If you can go cashless, go cashless. Something like Apple Pay, where you just tap your iPhone, is a good option because you don’t have to exchange your credit card, Sauer says. While you should try to keep your phone out of your hands as much as possible while shopping, she says using something like Apple Pay is a “trade off” because it’s better to have as little contact with the cashier as possible.
If you don’t have a mobile payment service, Dr. Jonathan Fielding, a professor of health policy and management at the University of California Los Angeles’s School of Public Health, says the next best option is a credit or debit card that’s “wiped clean both before and after use.”
If you have to use cash, the CDC spokesperson recommends you “thoroughly wash your hands after handling [it].”
Sauer also suggests you try to keep as much distance as possible between yourself and the cashier. “It’s less about the surfaces and more about how close in contact you are with the people,” she explains. Cashiers don’t have the freedom to move around like shoppers do, so be mindful to make space for them, she adds.
Hedberg also suggests using self-service checkout, which reduces contact with a cashier. “However you pay, wash your hands,” he adds.
Should you wipe down all items when they get home?
Experts tell TIME it’s not necessary. “You want to keep those cleaning supplies for when you really need them,” Sauer explains. Certain containers, like cardboard boxes, also can’t be decontaminated with just a wipe because they’re porous, she adds. Instead, Sauer recommends prioritizing using your cleaning supplies on “high touch surfaces,” like shopping cart handles. Hedberg also advises being careful to not wipe hazardous chemicals on food. “Using bleach on packaging materials or foods may create more problems than it could theoretically solve,” he writes in an email.
The CDC also does not recommend wiping down grocery items at home. “Currently there is no evidence to support transmission of COVID-19 associated with food or food packaging,” the CDC spokesperson writes. However, she adds that people should make sure to wash their hands as soon as they get home, especially before eating or preparing food. If soap and water is not available, use hand sanitizer with at like 60% alcohol, she says.
Just make sure to wash your fruits and vegetables like you normally would. If you want to be extra thorough, Fielding suggests using a vegetable brush, and to clean it between using on each individual piece of produce.
Once you’ve unpacked your groceries, you should clean your hands again, the CDC spokesperson says. You should then clean your kitchen surfaces, including countertops, cabinet handles, and light switches. “You should try to clean these surfaces often,” she writes.
When is the best time to visit the grocery store?
Many stores have set aside certain hours just for high-risk individuals, such as senior citizens or people who are immunocompromised. Sauer says that “first and foremost” you should respect those hours, which are meant to protect vulnerable individuals who have no other option but to go to the store.
If you belong to this high-risk category, look up what stores around you have these special hours, Fielding says. When possible, have friends or family go to the store for you, Sauer adds.
If you’re not in a high-risk category, consider shopping at “off-peak hours” to avoid crowds, the CDC spokesperson suggests. These times will depend on where you are. Early in the morning or late at night can often be less crowded. Hedberg suggests calling ahead to ask, or using an online guide to track periods of activity.
How often should you go grocery shopping?
Go as infrequently as possible without resorting to hoarding behavior, experts say. There is plenty of food in storage facilities around the U.S., it’s been reported, so it’s more a matter of getting it off those shelves and into stores. Hoarding is unnecessary and risks taking supplies away from people who need them.
But in general, try to stay home as much as possible. Justman suggests going to the store once a week, or even every few weeks if that’s a financial option. Sauer points out that going as rarely as possible not only reduces your risk of exposure, but also helps reduce the number of people in the store.
Still, make sure you always have enough food to provide safe and nutritious meals for your whole household, Hedberg stresses. Eating well is a crucial component of staying healthy, even if getting that food can feel stressful.
“Every shopping outing has some risk,” Fielding writes. “So grocery shop as infrequently as possible and practical.”
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