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Dr. Fauci says you can stop wiping down your groceries

Updated Oct 28th, 2020 8:11AM EDT
Coronavirus Transmission Risk
Image: Drazen/Adobe

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  • Dr. Anthony Fauci said in an interview that people should spend less time wiping down groceries and other items they bring home to prevent an infection with the novel coronavirus.
  • The risk of catching COVID-19 from contaminated surfaces is real, but relatively minor.
  • Fauci recommends people focus on washing their hands frequently to reduce the risk of transmission.

Since early March, whenever I left the house, I acted like everyone I came in contact with was infected with the novel coronavirus, and every surface that I’d touch had been contaminated. Wearing masks and staying a few feet away from other people reduces the risk of transmission. So does hand sanitizer or frequent hand washing. Avoiding touching your face with dirty hands is also a good idea to prevent fomite spread.

But back in the early days of the pandemic, when we had no idea how dangerous touching groceries and other foreign objects would be, I used to wipe them down and make sure I washed my hands often while handling bags and products. As we learned more about the way the virus spreads, it became clear that the chance of getting COVID-19 from surfaces is only theoretical, and I stopped wiping everything down. As long as you practice good hand hygiene and don’t touch your nose, eyes, and mouth with dirty hands, you should be fine.

Dr. Anthony Fauci just made it clear that people shouldn’t worry about wiping down grocery bags and other products as much as they should focus on hand hygiene instead.



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“We know that this virus overwhelmingly predominantly is transmitted by the respiratory route by either droplets that are large enough, essentially to travel, to get to someone’s nose, eyes, mouth, or aerosol a little bit. We don’t know exactly what the extent of the aerosol is. We know it does play a role exactly how much is still being worked out,” Fauci said during Yahoo Finance’s All Markets Summit on Monday.

“We also know that the virus can live on inanimate objects,” Fauci said, adding that “that is very likely a very, very minor, minor aspect” of COVID-19 transmissibility. “We can’t say it’s zero. It certainly is real and is finite, but it’s minor.”

The Chinese CDC recently said that the novel coronavirus can survive on frozen food packaging and be infectious. We’ve seen plenty of other studies that showed the virus can survive on various surfaces from a few hours to a few days. Therefore, the risk of getting infected after touching surfaces is real. But that would happen only out of negligence.

Considering the risks, Fauci said people should not focus on wiping down items. “I think we should spend less time worrying about wiping down a grocery bag than we should about just washing our hands frequently,” he said.

The health expert went on to give an example of how he handles things in his personal life. So you asked me what I do when I come from the grocery store or when someone gives me a take-out bag, which I do a lot now because I don’t go into restaurants and sit down. I want to keep them going financially. So I do a lot of takeout. So I do have a bag that I bring into my house,” he said. “Instead of worrying about the bag, I’ll open the bag, and then I’ll just wash my hands thoroughly, which is what you should do.”

“I think doing that natural public health measure and not worrying about touching things that might or might not have anything to do with transmissibility, just focus on washing your hands,” Fauci concluded.

Obviously, it’s still a good idea to maintain cleanliness at home and wipe down commonly used surfaces frequently. But you shouldn’t be wiping down every item you bring into the home as long as you practice good hand hygiene.

A few days ago, Fauci also added two new items to the list of recommended health measures against the novel coronavirus. The expert says people should air their homes and wear face masks in those cases where they’re not sure if someone is infected or not. The other general principles remain unchanged. Aside from hand washing, Fauci recommends universal face masks, social distancing, and avoiding crowds.

Chris Smith Senior Writer

Chris Smith has been covering consumer electronics ever since the iPhone revolutionized the industry in 2008. When he’s not writing about the most recent tech news for BGR, he brings his entertainment expertise to Marvel’s Cinematic Universe and other blockbuster franchises.

Outside of work, you’ll catch him streaming almost every new movie and TV show release as soon as it's available.

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