Is shopping in stores safe during the pandemic?
There are ways to reduce risk, but health experts advise avoiding it when possible.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says holiday shopping in crowded stores is a “higher risk” activity and that people should limit any in-person shopping, including at supermarkets.
Instead, the agency recommends shopping online, visiting outdoor markets or using curbside pickup, where workers bring orders to your car.
If you need to enter a store, go during off hours when there will likely be fewer people. Wear a mask and stay at least 6 feet away from others.
Try to spend as little time inside the store as possible, says Dr. Isaac Weisfuse, a public health expert at Cornell University.
LOS ANGELES, CA - NOVEMBER 27: People shop at the Glendale Galleria for Black Friday deals in Glendale on Friday, Nov. 27, 2020 in Los Angeles, CA. (Dania Maxwell / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)
“You just want to go in and out,” he says. “Get your shopping done and move on.”
Use a hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol when you leave, and then wash your hands with soap and water when you get home.
Retailers have been doing all kinds of things to make shoppers feel safe, but they don't eliminate the risk. Some check shoppers' temperatures at the entrance, for example, but an infected person may not have a fever and can still spread the virus.
The plastic barriers between customers and cashiers also might not block all droplets from an infected person, Weisfuse says. If the air in a store feels stuffy, he says that’s a sign of poor ventilation, and you should leave.