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What you need to know about grocery shopping during the coronavirus outbreak

While Washingtonians are under a stay-at-home order, grocery shopping is still allowed and experts are recommending the following tips for staying healthy.

SEATTLE — The state of Washington is under a "stay-at-home" order issued by Governor Jay Inslee to help slow the spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19). While that order's in place, grocery shopping is still allowed. 

If you are unable to visit the grocery store, experts say getting your groceries delivered is a great way to still get items you need. If you do head to the store, you’ll want to follow several precautions while you’re there and even when you get home.

Here is a breakdown of how to navigate grocery shopping during the coronavirus pandemic.

Safety tips at the grocery store

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says you do not need to wear a face mask to the grocery store.

Instead, try to limit your trips and stay home if you are sick. If you do go to the store, follow these preventive measures recommended by the CDC:

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If you don't have access to soap and water use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.
  • Cover your coughs and sneezes.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Practice social distancing by staying 6 feet apart from other shoppers.
  • Use disinfecting wipes to wipe down your grocery cart or basket.

Grocery store hours

It's important to note several grocery stores in western Washington have adjusted their hours to allow senior shoppers and other at-risk people to shop separately from the general public. 

Those hours are typically in the morning before the store opens to the general public. See this list for grocery store hour adjustments.

Which pantry items should I buy?

The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommends keeping the following items stocked in your pantry:

  • Dried or canned beans, peas and lentils (such as black, garbanzo, kidney, white and pinto beans; green, yellow or split peas and lentils)
  • Canned vegetables with no added salt (such as tomatoes, green beans, and corn)
  • Dried or canned fruit in 100% fruit juice
  • Whole grains (such as brown rice, quinoa, oats, millet, and whole-wheat pasta)
  • Pouches or canned fish and chicken
  • Nuts, seeds, and nut butters
  • Olive, canola or other vegetable oils
  • Dried herbs and spices

Frozen Foods

  • Vegetables (such as broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, and brussels sprouts)
  • Fruit (such as berries and cherries )
  • Whole wheat pizza dough
  • Poultry
  • Seafood

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Do I need to clean my groceries when I get home? 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there is no evidence to support the transmission of COVID-19 associated with food.

Experts, however, still suggest throwing out disposable bags, wiping down your counters and washing your hands to be safe.

The New York Times interviewed Dr. Daniel Winetsky, an infectious diseases fellow at Columbia University Irving Medical Center about best practices when handling groceries.

When asked if people should wipe down jars and plastic containers, Winetsky said contamination from jars and plastic containers is not a big risk.

When it comes to unpacking produce, Dr. Elizabeth Eckstrom, professor and chief of geriatrics at Oregon Health & Science University told the Times that people should wash raw produce with an organic soap specifically for vegetables or any natural dish soap.

“I am not wiping everything down, but I am carefully washing my hands after touching these grocery items,” Dr. Eckstrom said. “Cooking does kill the virus, but any fresh produce that is eaten raw should be carefully washed.”

And of course, wash your hands once you are done handling any and all grocery items.

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Shopping at local pantries

If going to the grocery store is something you're trying to avoid altogether, you can try purchasing items from local farmer's markets. 

Several markets in the Seattle-area are working on ways for customers to order online and get the items delivered. Click here for more details.

Tight 5 Farm's store in Ballard is also selling products from multiple farms who usually sell at the Sunday farmers market on a pop-up basis. For the next three weekends, from noon to 6 p.m. shoppers can pick up produce from Tight 5 Farm at 1113 NW 52nd St., A. 

If groceries and cooking isn't your style, you can always order take-out. Under Gov. Inslee's stay-at-home order, restaurants who can provide take-out service and/or delivery are allowed to stay open. 

Get your groceries delivered

And if you prefer to stay home, many stores are offering "contactless" delivery options. This means you can get your groceries dropped off right in front of your door.

Experts recommend waiting until the delivery person has left to pick up your items from your door, this will help limit contact with other people. 

National store chains and apps such as InstaCart offer delivery options but you can always try delivery apps, such as Favor or Alto.

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