Social distancing means a lot of people are avoiding stores. Depending on where you live, those stores might even be closed for the time being. All that means that we’re all making a few more purchases online than we might ordinarily. Those delivered packages also come with a pretty big question: Are they safe?
Before that package arrived at your door it was likely touched by a pretty significant amount of people: the person who packed it, the person who picked it up for delivery, the truck drivers along the way, and finally the person who delivered it to your doorstep.
The U.S. CDC looked at previous coronaviruses and found that they, in general, “because of poor survivability of these coronaviruses on surfaces, there is likely very low risk of spread from products or packaging that are shipped over a period of days or weeks at ambient temperatures.”
The CDC doesn’t recommend that people disinfect packages.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) offers similar advice. It made this statement early on in the pandemic when cases were concentrated in China: “People receiving packages from China are not at risk of contracting the new coronavirus.”
UPS, FedEx, and the USPS have all also made statements indicating that they are following the guidelines of the CDC in all their deliveries and are sending home any drivers or handlers that might exhibit any flu-like symptoms.
In an interview with Business Insider, Elizabeth McGraw, director of the Centre for Infectious Disease Dynamics at Pennsylvania State University said “If we had transmission via packages we would have seen immediate global spread out of China early in the outbreak … we did not see that and therefore I think the risk is incredibly low.”
She says that “We know that viruses are likely to only live a few hours to a few days under the sort of conditions we expose packages to, including shifts in temperature and humidity,” a position that is echoed by the CDC.
If you’re really concerned about a package (again, you shouldn’t be), then your best course of action is to open it as you normally would, close to your front door, or maybe even on your doorstep. Then take the packaging out to your recycling bin, and wash your hands immediately after. The most important part of that entire process is the handwashing at the end.
According to WHO “The best way to protect yourself against COVID-19 is by frequently cleaning your hands. By doing this you eliminate viruses that may be on your hands and avoid infection that could occur by then touching your eyes, mouth, and nose.”