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Safely shop locally while social distancing

As recently as a few months ago, shopping around town was an uneventful part of our daily lives. But in the wake of efforts to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus, shopping locally changed in ways that few people will ever forget.
Social distancing guidelines and recommendations urge consumers to stay in their homes as much as possible, but a few simple strategies can help shoppers stay safe as they shop for groceries, home repairs, gardening supplies, school supplies, and back-to-school clothes.
· Wear a mask. Safety guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are evolving as scientists learn more about COVID-19. One of the more significant changes the CDC made to its initial guidelines was to recommend people wear cloth face coverings in public settings where social distancing measures are difficult to maintain. As communities begin to reopen, certain restrictions may be relaxed, but the CDC continues to advise people to wear masks while out in public, including when shopping. The CDC notes that wearing masks may slow the spread of the virus by preventing people who have it but are asymptomatic from transmitting it to others.
· Shop during off-peak hours. Traditionally “off-peak” hours may no longer apply at many stores, such as grocery and big box stores, the majority of which have changed their store hours so staff can thoroughly clean and disinfect stores each night. But even if stores are not open as late as they used to be, there are still times of day when fewer customers will likely be in the store. Early mornings may be designated for shoppers in vulnerable populations, such as the elderly. However, many stores remain less crowded in the mornings than they are during the rest of the day. Avoid shopping on weekends if you want to steer clear of crowds, as these are the only times when people who are still working can find time to shop. Weekday mornings or later in the afternoons may be ideal times to shop for those who want to avoid crowds.
· Wash hands before and after going to the store. The CDC continues to tout the importance of washing hands as a means to preventing the spread of COVID-19. Scientists are still unsure about how easily the virus can spread from contact with potentially contaminated surfaces, but washing hands before and after shopping is a simple safety measure that prevents the spread of germs and potentially harmful viruses like COVID-19.
· Avoid touching your face. The Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology notes that respiratory infections can be caused by an assortment of bacteria, viruses, and other disease-causing germs. Scientists believe COVID-19 is spread through respiratory droplets of infected persons. These droplets are essentially invisible but when people come into contact with them and then touch their eyes, nose or mouth, viruses can spread. So, people should avoid touching their face with potentially dirty hands.
Shopping has changed as the world reacts to the COVID-19 virus. It’s important that people remain diligent when out in public, taking every step necessary to protect themselves and others from contracting this potentially deadly virus.