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Can you spread coronavirus through mail, food delivery?

CDC, FDA say risk is likely very low

ROANOKE COUNTY, Va. – As people hunker down in their homes to stay safe from the coronavirus, they’re relying more and more on food delivery and take-out.

But the question remains: How clean and safe are the deliveries arriving at my door?

According to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), there’s no evidence of food or food packaging associated with the spread of COVID-19.

It’s only known to be spread from person-to-person contact and possibly spread by touching a contaminated surface, then touching your mouth, nose or eyes.

It’s important to note there hasn’t been a documented case of a person getting infected from a surface contaminated with the new coronavirus, according to the CDC.

Transmission usually happens when people come in direct contact with respiratory droplets produced when a nearby infected person coughs or sneezes.

That’s why food delivery services like Grub Hub and Door Dash are offering “no contact” options by leaving meals on porches or doorsteps.

Local restaurants like Cabo Fish Taco in Roanoke and Blacksburg are taking precautions, too. Regional Manager Richard Barrar said employees are following health protocols, washing their hands and sanitizing regularly.

“We identify touch points because obviously, from what we’ve learned about the virus is, anything that anyone touches can be passing the virus around,” Barrar said. "We’ve got our door propped open. You know, anytime we touch anything that a customer touches, we’ll change our gloves. So we’re doing any little thing we can to be safe.”

What about mail?

Companies like UPS, Fed-Ex, the United States Postal Service and Amazon tell NBC News they’re taking precautions to sanitize and protect their workers and the public from spreading the disease. Some have even stopped requiring in-person signatures for deliveries.

The CDC says the risk of infection from delivered packages is “likely very low."

However, a recent study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found the virus can live on:

  • cardboard for 24 hours
  • in the air for 3 hours
  • and 2 to 3 days on plastic or stainless steel

If you are worried, you can:

  • Use your own dishes. Toss out take-out containers.
  • Reheat your food, even if it’s already warm.
  • Wipe down the surfaces your grocery bags and delivery boxes touched.
  • Wash your hands.
  • Leave cardboard boxes that were delivered outside for 24 hours before bringing them inside.

“If this is the new way of life, this is the new way of life. It’s all we can do, you know, in this tough time. But we’ve got to get through it,” Barrar said. "We’re going to keep having fun and make tacos.”

The CDC and FDA said say the risk of coronavirus being spread on packages both for delivered mail and food is very low because it doesn’t survive well on surfaces, especially food products or packaging shipped over a period of days or weeks, whether it’s room temperature, refrigerated or frozen.


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