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How to safely run errands during COVID-19

May 1, 2020

During the outbreak of COVID-19, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advises Americans to avoid shopping trips and to use drive-thru, pick-up or delivery options. But what if that’s not possible? Here are some suggestions on how to safely run errands, such as buying groceries or going to the pharmacy.

Photo credit: Johan Larson/

First of all, if you are sick or have an underlying health condition that can put you at increased risk, stay home. Order online and use home delivery services. If that’s not available, ask family, friends, neighbors or faith-based organizations to run errands for you. If you are well, the CDC says: “Only visit the grocery store, or other stores selling household essentials, in person when you absolutely need to. This will limit your potential exposure to others and the virus that causes COVID-19.” However, if you need to go out for errands, try these tips:

Plan Ahead: Make a shopping list so that you can get in, get what you need, and get out as quickly as possible. You may want to do several errands at once such as going to the grocery store, pharmacy, gas station, etc., in one trip so that you don’t have to go out several times.

Run your errands at off-peak hours so you’ll be exposed to fewer people. Peak grocery store hours tend to be in the afternoon between 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. on weekdays and anytime on the weekends. Many grocery chains offer early morning hours for seniors or those with underlying health conditions to shop before the store is open to the general public.

Wear Protective Gear: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is advising that everyone wear cloth face masks or any cloth that covers your nose and mouth when out in public, and it is now mandatory in Massachusetts. You can also wear rubber or latex gloves. Be sure to wash the cloth face mask in warm, soapy water when you return home. Either dispose or wash the gloves, too. Most importantly, don’t touch your eyes, nose or mouth.

In the Store: If you can, bring disinfectant wipes and hand sanitizer with you to wipe down surfaces such as door handles and cart handles. Maintain distance from others whenever possible. Some grocery stores have limited the number of customers in the store at a time, designated one-way aisles, banned reusable bags, and taped off markers of six feet apart at the check-out line to help keep a distance between customers. Do not use cash at check-out to avoid handing off bills or change to the cashier. Use a credit or debit card which can be wiped down after use. And use touchless payment if available for even less contact. Once you leave the store, clean your hands with a hand sanitizer containing at least 60 percent alcohol, if possible.

At home: Once you get in the door, put shopping bags or goods on the floor. First take off your coat and shoes, then go to the sink to wash your hands. Next you can put away the groceries or other household supplies. After everything is put away, experts advise another round of handwashing, according to AARP.

For more information, follow these guidelines from the CDC on Running Essential Errands.


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