JWU professors, like students, are experiencing the “new normal” at home during the global pandemic, COVID-19. In this series, we’ll explore how they are navigating their day-to-day, both inside and outside the online classroom, and their observations of the world. Read more here.
Given my profession, and my volunteer role as an elected official for the Board of Health in my town, I get questions about COVID-19 on a daily basis. Almost all of them revolve around food safety and the risk of ordering carryout, going to the supermarket, or receiving deliveries of food to their door.
I hear conflicting comments on a regular basis, so I just wanted to set a few things straight.
The air is where the contamination occurs. The air. Not the groceries you purchased walking down a one- way aisle that was clearly delineated by decals or blue painters tape. Not the credit card you swiped as you were leaving the grocery store, and certainly not through any type of prepared food you picked up. The air. All of these precautionary measures were crafted to increase social distancing, not because there is a concern for food safety.
The removal of salad bars and buffets was not because we are concerned about food safety, and the spread of COVID 19 through food utensils; but because people tend to congregate at these types of service areas, waiting for their opportunity to pile it on. Trust me, my four boys can’t wait to get back into their favorite Brazilian Steakhouse (with a mom that can’t cook, it has been a long six weeks in quarantine for them!) but that type of food service may be halted a while longer as we continue to collect data and analyze the community spread of this virus.
Successful contact tracing will help our government make decisions based in science, not fear. The FDA Food Code was enacted to prevent foodborne illness and all of our food establishments must adhere to the food code at all times, and all of these uniform standards were based on scientific evidence. Employees who exhibit specific symptoms are not allowed to work - even outside of this novel COVID 19 pandemic. Handwashing and glove usage for ready to eat food has always been a requirement, as well as proper cleaning and sanitizing of equipment.
Food establishments were forced to shutter their dining rooms because of the challenge in social distancing, not because we were ever afraid the food could be contaminated. I encourage you to support your local restaurant community. Many have adopted unique approaches to curbside takeaway and contactless dining. We miss our restaurants, and they miss us. The most important thing you can do after picking up carry out is to WASH YOUR HANDS. You do not need to wipe down the carryout containers, you don’t even need to wear gloves – you just need to WASH YOUR HANDS.
Gloves create a false sense of security and, when used improperly, can become a contaminant. I don’t encourage you to wear gloves when you are at the grocery store, just WASH YOUR HANDS. I could write an entire blog on grocery store shenanigans by consumers right now related to the COVID 19…but I will stick with gloves. Gloves are not magic. I know they are shiny and can come in cool colors but if you are going to touch your face, nose, and eyes with gloves on, why do you have them on? If you are going to walk down the one-way aisle with gloves on with your dirty cell phone to your face and talk, why do you have them on? Improper glove use is also creating an additional burden on our essential employees. Customers are discarding gloves in shopping carriages and in parking lots; increasing the job duties of our essential employees. Once you bring your groceries home and put them away WASH YOUR HANDS. You don’t need to wipe down your packages, just wash those hands.
The bottom line is this: I encourage you to practice social distancing as we await additional information from the contact-tracing push. I encourage you to support your local restaurant communities by observing the social distancing recommendations, and by using a face covering when necessary. I encourage you to be kind to all of our food service workers and if you are not feeling well, please do not go shopping. Wait until your symptoms have resolved so you do not place them at an additional risk. And, of course – WASH YOUR HANDS.
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