If you’ve found yourself wiping down your groceries with disinfectant wipes at some point since the coronavirus pandemic began, you are not alone.
Even Montreal Children’s Hospital Infectious Diseases Specialist Dr. Christos Karatzios was doing so for a while.
“I used to, in the beginning of the pandemic,” he told Global News.
More than just wiping the grocery items, many shoppers tried to keep anyone else from touching them. At Supermarché P.A. on Park Avenue at the peak of the pandemic, customers were bagging all their own purchases, but that is starting to change.
“We asked clients, would you like us to bag for you? At the start, it was more rare. Now, about 95 per cent of them would like us to help them with bagging,” said store manager Marco Moscato.
Two microbiologists interviewed by Global News say they have also eased up when it comes to concern over coronavirus on surfaces. Neither Dr. Karatzios nor Rutgers University Microbiology Professor Emanuel Goldman wipe down their groceries when they get home these days.
“No, I don’t,” said Karatzios.
“Oh, good grief, no,” said Goldman.
Goldman recently published a comment in the prestigious medical journal The Lancet, arguing that early studies which found viral transmission from surfaces to be a huge concern did not reflect reality.
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To catch the virus from something you touch at a store, an infected person would have to cough or sneeze directly on it, a lot. You would then have to touch the infected object soon after, then touch your face, he said.
“It’s really a minimal, minimal concern,” said Goldman.
With kids back in class, virus transmission from surface contact is a significant concern for teachers.
“We have been told that anything that we collect, we should not be touching for three days,” explained Catherine Hogan, a Grade 11 teacher at Westwood High School in Hudson, Que.
According to Hogan, some teachers have even been trying to kill the virus in their kitchens.
“They were saying, well, are we able to microwave our assignments?” she explained, adding that teachers had attempted cook assignments in the microwave along with a glass of water after hearing the virus could be killed by high temperatures.
“I don’t think that that has ever been shown, and paper can catch fire in a microwave,” said Karatzios.
Goldman says even if the virus is living on an assignment, by the time it gets to school the next day it’s already dying.
“If you want to play it safe, you can leave the assignment for one day. It’s not unreasonable to me to leave it one day,” he said.
Hogan also said teachers had been advised to wash all the clothes they’d worn during the school day before setting foot in their homes, an initiative Goldman called “huge overkill.”
Karatzios believes if there could be a danger area for surface transmission in schools, it would be the bathroom.
“I think that it is very important to wash our hands when we’re in the bathroom and not touch every surface of the bathroom. They do have very high touch area surfaces,” he said.
The microbiologist has no problem with people wanting to be extra careful, however.
“To be overly cautious is not something that we should mock or something that we should disregard,” he said, noting that handwashing after touching any object that may concern you remains the best way to keep safe from surfaces.
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