Service of Can You Ever Do Enough to Be Safe?

March 30th, 2020

Categories: Delivery, Health, Packaging, Panic, Safety

For a moderately good housekeeper these are stressful times especially since I can’t find the ideal products recommended for coronavirus whistle-cleaness.

So I wonder: “Did I clean the plastic bags correctly? Are my apartment keys virus free? My credit card? Do I really have to wash my hair every time I go outside? Did I catch every nook and cranny of that tuna can or OJ bottle? What about my jacket pocket where I keep my phone? And the phone itself?”

And then I remember what happened one summer vacation in high school. I was in southern Italy with two classmates and the mother and brother of one. For our safety, Mrs. G was scrupulously careful about the water we drank–it had to be bottled. At the time we didn’t care for fizzy water but that seemed to be the only kind available. One day we found a restaurant with bottled still water. We were gleeful. As we sipped our drinks through a straw–real straw–we suddenly realized that the ice in our drinks was made with local water. None of us got sick.

Fact: My home will never be as clean as an operating room–live with it [I hope].

Joseph G. Allen’s Washington Post opinion piece “Don’t panic about shopping, getting delivery or accepting packages” put some of my concerns in perspective. He claims low risk for “box delivered by UPS, touch packages at the grocery store or accept food delivery.” Allen is at the Harvard T. H Chan School of Public Health in its Healthy Buildings Program.

He wrote “First, disease transmission from inanimate surfaces is real, so I don’t want to minimize that. It’s something we have known for a long time; as early as the 1500s, infected surfaces were thought of as ‘seeds of disease,’ able to transfer disease from one person to another.”

Today a New England Journal of Medicine article is trending [and scaring]. “The coronavirus that causes covid-19 ‘was detectable . . . up to four hours on copper, up to 24 hours on cardboard and up to two to three days on plastic and stainless steel.’”

Allen shared an example of an Amazon package delivered by an infected driver who wiped his/her nose, didn’t wash hands and touched your package. “Even then, there would be a time lag from when they transferred the virus until you picked up the package at your door, with the virus degrading all the while. In the worst-case scenario, a visibly sick driver picks up your package from the truck, walks to your front door and sneezes into their hands or directly on the package immediately before handing it to you.”

Allen then described a model–think pieces of pie. “For disease to happen, all of the pieces of the pie have to be there: sick driver, sneezing/coughing, viral particles transferred to the package, a very short time lapse before delivery, you touching the exact same spot on the package as the sneeze, you then touching your face or mouth before hand-washing.”

He wrote to cut the chain: leave the package outside or right inside the door for a few hours and wash your hands. He continued: “you could wipe down the exterior with a disinfectant, or open it outdoors and put the packaging in the recycling can. (Then wash your hands again.)”

Regarding grocery stores: “Keep your hands away from your face while shopping, and wash them as soon as you’re home. Put away your groceries, and then wash your hands again. If you wait even a few hours before using anything you just purchased, most of the virus that was on any package will be significantly reduced. If you need to use something immediately, and want to take extra precautions, wipe the package down with a disinfectant. Last, wash all fruits and vegetables as you normally would.”

Feel better? What precautions are you taking? Any shortcuts? Can you share examples of when a goal of perfection fell short yet all was well in the end?

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8 Responses to “Service of Can You Ever Do Enough to Be Safe?”

  1. Larry Kay Said:

    Larry on Facebook: Saving this.

  2. Jackie Morel Said:

    Jackie on Facebook: Remember when getting some bacteria was building antibodies and that was a good thing?

  3. Jeanne Byington Said:


    I said this very thing to a friend two minutes ago. When bottled water became popular I read that mothers who gave their children this water exclusively were not doing them a service. The kids were not getting natural immunity from tap water as they always had.

    Are we turning ourselves into rare and fragile orchids with all this cleaning?

  4. Anonymous Said:

    Stay well and safe. Everyone does what they feel will work I think. Some face this stupidly. Like that Virginia evangelical college!!!!!!!!

  5. Jeanne Byington Said:


    Father Martin, a Jesuit priest, posted this on Twitter that I felt addressed your comment:

    “I cannot understand the resistance of some conservatives Christians (and Catholics) to listen to public health officials. Hatred of government? Arrogance? Stupidity? Selfishness? Their intransigence leads to infections and death. It is anti-life.”

  6. Jackie Morel Said:

    Jackie wrote on Facebook: no fluoride in bottled water or toxic chemicals from garden hose. 🙂

  7. Lucrezia Said:

    The virus appears not to care what anyone does. It’s an organism which seems to be programmed, but not made to think, so I’m not about to go crazy over what or what not to do. Since believers in the squeaky clean get the disease, living in over-sanitized surroundings is not the answer. Avoiding crowds, keeping ones distance, and ordinary cleaning procedures make sense. Perhaps diligence in those areas will both “bore” and “talk” this pestilence into packing up and returning to its original source.

  8. Jeanne Byington Said:


    Actually, there are things we can do: Dr. David Price of Weill-Cornell Medical Center, NYC,shared his intel in a video. He cares for the sickest coronavirus patients at the hospital. One of the readers of this blog sent it to me after I’d written it.

    The video is 47 minutes long and I’m not going to summarize it here but if you follow what he calls “the rules” you’ll probably be OK. You know not to put your hands on your face. It is essential and it is something we can all do. We can also wash our hands; use Purel or other hand sanitizers; stay three to six feet apart; wear a mask when we go out. He said it doesn’t matter what kind of mask. Its purpose: So we don’t put our hands on our faces. He describes how, if sick, you should feel to require hospitalization. And much more.

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