Hello, everyone. It’s been a while since I’ve checked in with anything having to do with the Coronavirus. For one, it’s been a little overwhelming. Maybe it is for you, too? I go in fits and starts with trying to wrap my head around everything. It’s a lot, no doubt. Lucky for me that over the years I’ve had some pretty good practice at dealing. All kinds of dealing. I’ll pass on a few tips, below, that have helped me. And I’m gonna talk about groceries! What’s safe, what isn’t, and what’s good practice these days in dealing with the groceries we bring into the house – from the experts!
I don’t think there is such a thing as an easy life. We all have struggles, we all cope in our own ways and we all handle anything thrown at us because the alternatives are worse. Maybe that’s where the saying that “God will never give us anything we can’t handle” comes from.
But how do you handle something as slippery as this virus? And a slippery thing. it is. While the virus itself might not change (we hope) the numbers, all the information, the science and how it’s interpreted (and maybe more importantly, how it’s misinterpreted), the politics, the bad decisions, the news, and oh, all the opinions are like a roiling ocean, deep, dark, churning. It’s an abyss.
Hang on to One Thought:
It’s when things are spinning, our minds won’t shut down with worry or cares that it’s important to find something to hang on to. And that will be something different for all of us. For you maybe it’s faith. For others, maybe a small piece of some truth that has meaning for you. Maybe it’s your loved one/s (human and/or otherwise.) Maybe it’s an all-encompassing action, one enough to take your mind off things. Or making a difference, for yourself, your family, or for the community at large.
Maybe it’s one thought, a mantra, like the one I’ve been thinking about for this spring. That it is our privilege to be independent, our duty to be inter-dependant. That we are all in this together, and no matter what the government tells us on a federal level, what our states tell us, we each matter, all of us, and we are all inextricably intertwined.
When the Coronavirus settles out, we’ll all be forever changed, we will all have loss. We can’t change that, we can’t deny it away. But we can control and change the way we think, the way we react, the way we do. Most of all, we can do what’s right. And if enough of us do it, it will make a difference.
Do One Thing:
We all have different abilities and cope with things differently. For some of us, we can and do carry on when faced with circumstances out of our control, for others, the same circumstances are overwhelming. The majority of us seem to fall somewhere between, and in that in-between lies “sometimes ok, other times not.”
A wise woman once told me that when things are at their worst, focus on one thing. That it might not matter if the laundry isn’t kept up or the dishes aren’t done or that one room or the garage is full of clutter and broken-down
crap I mean treasure. No one’s gonna die if the kitchen floor isn’t scrubbed or the windows aren’t cleaned.
When things are just too much, adjust your expectations, put on blinders to everything else, and pick one thing, one manageable thing, every day. Focus only on it and only for a set period of time. And when that time is up, stop. And the stopping is just as important as the starting! If you’re at a low, taking things too far too fast can be too exhausting. It’s really no different than working an exercise program.
Be Kind to Yourself:
Being nice to others might be easy, but the dark recesses of our mind can pull out every rotten trick in the book we’ve ever heard from childhood on to apply to ourselves. Maybe it’s time to not only treat others how we’d like to be treated but to treat ourselves that way.
Drop the words “have to” or “should” and probably any sentence that starts with “Why are you (meaning yourself) so….” And especially stop it if that sentence finishes up with something negative. And especially now. Another Gandhi quote: “I will not let anyone walk through my mind with their dirty feet.” Don’t let those “dirty feet” be your own.
If you need to, place reminders around the house. Maybe on the mirror, the scale, or where ever you might find yourself prone to think negative thoughts. No need to spell it out. Maybe a sticky with a smiley face!
Take Care of Yourself First:
Which isn’t to say to neglect everyone else, but just like on the plane when they say that you first put on your oxygen mask and then tend to those around you, do what you need to do.
Somehow find a bit of time for nothing more than a few minutes of peace and a little zen and some time to recharge. Find something meaningful and special just for yourself. A phone conversation. A cup of tea. 10 minutes to yourself. Anything, small or large.
What’s New (Or Relatively So)
There is a new set of symptoms to watch for, according to the CDC. If you haven’t seen them, you can view them in full and their guidelines for seeking medical care on their site.
As you know, many states are lifting restrictions in a grand experiment. Other countries have been successful at some of the phases, below. There are many reasons why we haven’t but they all come down to one. It’s us. It’s our actions, each of us as individuals. Multiplied by 331 million.
- We, as a nation, failed miserably at the initial phase of identification and contact tracing. That’s water under the bridge.There’s blame enough to go around but honestly moving forward concerns me more.
- We moved on to “mitigation” for the whole country on March 16th, in which we made a half-hearted attempt at shutting down the economy; we knocked the economy back about 30 percent (figures vary) as we as a nation limped along, strangled. We made progress on the spread, but failed to reduce our numbers.
- Forced with considering longer time in lockdown with stricter measures, we (more accurately, our officials) decided in many areas to move to the “Hammer & Dance” where we watch for hot spots and outbreaks and “treat them” as they happen.
We’ll all have to wait and see how things playout for the US and what’s next. I think it is important to realize that the outcome IS dependant on OUR actions and IS in OUR hands. I know, I keep saying it!
Some Helpful Links:
Dr. Warner Greene, more on him below, put out this recent short video on what’s up and what’s happening with SARS-CoV-2. I can’t say it’s the most engaging thing I’ve ever seen, but it’s recent & the info is good.
If you like to track the #’s (some feel it’s important not to overdo it!) I like The Covid Data Tracker. This site lets me quickly identify what’s going in in the areas my family lives (and in my own) and shows a history along with links to the official sites in each state.
If you want to know where much of the “modeling” we hear about come from, check the IHME. They say they will no longer be able to speculate projections past May 6th on states that have gone rogue (my words.) Here’s their latest update. They no longer include their maps of when states may safely move to the Hammer & Dance, and the map was last updated on April 22nd. Hi Georgia, I see you there estimated with an opening of June 6th or later! (My grandbabies, including my newest grandchild who I have yet to meet & much of my family is there!)
IHME Map, Last updated April 22, 2020
Around the House:
I’m still in the house and minimizing any contact! And have been now for just about 2 months. I’m eating too much. I’m wondering just how many times I have to tell Netflix, “Yes I’m still watching!!” There is a solution if you’re watching on your computer. I am watching way too much TV (hey, food network!) And have been become prone to, every now and then bursting into tears at some of the commercials. One that gets me every time is this one for the ASPCA. And if you think that’s bad, you should see me when I watch Bambi!
We’ve had some bad news; the assisted living center my folks are in has reported several cases of Covid. Of course, I’m heartsick and am trying to remain hopeful that we’ll all get through this with the best possible scenario. And knowing that we did have so much time together (I took care of them for 2 1/2 years) is a consolation, as is seeing them on a weekly Zoom meeting. I know many of you are in the same type of situation, with folks or loved ones isolated or worse. My heart goes out to you all.
Things got pretty tight the last few months with so may added medical expenses & preparation for Covid and I visited at first the free produce fair (open for anyone) at our church and also I ended up being one of those cars lined up. It was the most humbling experience of my life (And yes I cried; acts of kindness always make me tear up along with, apparently, ASPCA commercials and Bambi) and my son and I teamed up to deliver to several families (with no contact) in need.
Now, About Those Groceries:
First & foremost, don’t freak when you think about bringing the Coronavirus into your home on food items or the packages holding them. You should take some care and reasonable precautions (and possibly more care if you are in a high-risk category) but there are factors that work in our favor.
- The virus has to be on the items you are bringing in and in enough volume to cause harm (although we don’t know exactly what volume that is.)
- The virus doesn’t multiply (like bacteria does) outside of a live host cell. It actually diminishes on surfaces over time, at varying rates, but possibly at different rates with different temperatures.
- It then, if there is enough of the virus, it has (most probably) to be transferred somehow to your respiratory system, possibly from contact with your hands, which then contact your face or mucus membranes.
- It is unlikely since Covid-19 is a respiratory illness that transfer of the virus would happen through ingestion, according to The CDC, the Food and Drug Administration, and the World Health Organization says that food is not known to be a route of transmission of the virus. This article in Science Direct helps to support that.
You have multiple chances to remove the virus and/or kill it on any packages and some of the food coming into your house as well as minimize that transfer with proper handwashing and good sanitation before it could make it’s way to your respiratory system. Wash your hands. Don’t touch your face! (I hope I’m hearing a “Yes, Momma Mollie!”)
What do Top Experts Say and/or Do About Groceries & Coronavirus:
I can’t give advice about something other than what has been scientifically published or been given by actual authorities on the subject. You’ve got to know that all experts are not in complete agreement. And you are going to need to find your comfort level.
Dr. Warner Greene, a leading virologist (the guy mentioned above) who has shifted his focus and is actively working with the Coronavirus, carefully handles all food & food items that come into his home. He was interviewed by NBC (don’t groan, he IS an expert no matter where he was interviewed) on whether the Coronavirus Can Survive in the Refrigerator and he explains how he handles the food coming into his home.
The 2010 study referred to was done on the SARS-CoV-1 Coronavirus (the virus we call SARS) not the current Coronavirus we’re all worried about, SARS-CoV-2; low humidity and temperature (39.2 degrees F.) showed SARS virus still present for up to 28 days, at which point the study was concluded. A refrigerator should be kept under 40 degrees F. according to the FDA, and obviously above freezing so this is concerning.
Dr. Greene, who is familiar with the 2010 study but was not involved with it, says that’s all the reason he needs to recommend everyone disinfect grocery items before they go in the fridge or freezer.
Other studies have been done on this Coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) that relates to the storage of food and temperatures. It seems to me that’s it’s obvious that greater effort and/or longer time is necessary to kill off the virus at cooler temperatures.
- Although we don’t know how long the virus lives on any surface other than those tested or how long it lives on surfaces at different temperatures, we do have information published by the New England Journal of Medicine. That does give us an indication of how long the virus stays viable at room temperature (69 to 73 degrees F.) for the tested surfaces. That temperature is key, but maybe less important now that summer is coming and many surfaces will be around room temperature.
- In early April, a study published in the Lancet indicated after 14 days the virus had reduced very little at 39.2 degrees F. in their laboratory tests. It called the virus “highly stable” at that temperature. That article briefly mentions killing the virus at different temperatures and with different lengths of time so it’s a must-read.
- It’s worth noting that in general, a freezer does not kill viruses, it just holds them dormant or close to it. I don’t know of a study on SARS-CoV-2 testing at temperatures lower than 39.2 degrees, but viruses can be persistent. How persistent? Check this article by NCBI that talks about a 700-year-old virus frozen in ice. I don’t mean to be an alarmist, I was just wowed by that!
Consumer Reports (and you know how thorough they are) quoted several experts with various credentials. The agreement seemed to be to take care, practice good food safety methods (partially because, especially at this time, no one wants to be in the hospital for any foodborne illness) and the general consensus seems to be that transfer from food or packaging is possible but not likely.
Consumer Reports, which does a good job in this article with so much information takes it upon themselves to misrepresent the March 17th study (the one in the New England Journal of Medicine) on how long Coronavirus lasts on surfaces, not clarifying that the testing was only done on certain surfaces and only done at room temperature.
As far as shopping, risk, and dealing with food, Harvard has published an article, Food Safety, Nutrition and Wellness during Covid-19. Their advice for washing vegetables is consistent with the advice on the FDA’s Bad Bug Book, referenced on my site in my article on Food Safety and Expiration Dates.
My note: If you wash your vegetables with a brush, be very sure that the brush is clean and probably disinfected as well. I personally think you might have a higher risk of spreading around all kinds of other nasties (not just this Coronavirus) from a dirty brush, sponge, dishcloth or sink.
What I Am Doing?:
First of all you do you. 🙂 I can’t say that I’m as careful as Dr. Green, but I am high risk and wash my hands or sanitize frequently before, during, and after food preparation, especially as I change from doing different tasks. For instance, if I’m chopping vegetables for a salad, then handle various items, jars & bottles, for the dressing, from my fridge and pantry, I’ll wash my hands after mixing the dressing and before I handle the vegetables again, because those veggies aren’t cooked.
- I have a set area away from my food prep area where I place my groceries when I get home & before I begin to work with them and when finished, I clean that area and dispose of or isolate any packaging I might want to reuse. It’s out of the way and not too freakish about it.
- I make a habit to isolate any pantry food that comes in cardboard, plastic or cans that are normally kept at room temperature for three days if they are not needed immediately. They go right into a box set out of the way in a corner where they are “quarantined” before going into my pantry. I figure a couple, three days is going to take care of any possible contamination with little effort on my part.
- If I do handle a container or package right away, I assume it is contaminated and take precautions, washing hands after handling.
- I wipe down or wash any packaged items (especially the milk) before they go into the fridge or freezer. The fact that the virus could potentially last a long time at those temperatures and knowing that at some point I might be careless is a flag for me. I either use the doc’s method of a bucket of water with a little bleach or soap and a wet rag or I just use a wipe or two if there isn’t a lot of items.
- I place vegetables and/or fruit into a new bag if they are in a bag that can’t be washed. I wash vegetables before using them, although I tend to wash most fruit like apples or oranges, ones I like to just grab and eat right away.
- I am more careful with washing hands after handling items from the fridge as I prepare my food; I consider the fridge to be a higher risk zone in the kitchen.
- I am also trying to be less careless than usual about my refrigerator! I do always try to keep it clean but it can get out of hand now and then. And I’m paying a lot more attention to the handles than I used to.
- I always wash vegetables under running water, as recommended by the FDA (Harvard also addresses this) making sure they don’t come into contact with the sink. All kinds of nasties live in your sink! I personally don’t and never have used any kind of special vegetable/fruit cleaner.
If nothing else, even though, yeah, it’s a huge hassle, I figure I’m upping my safety game! I might be using an abundance of caution, but I’m much less likely to come down with if not this Coronavirus, at least other coronaviruses, flu, & colds, and I’m lessening the possibility of contracting any foodborne illness. Even so, I have noticed that a lot of my food now tastes like alcohol! (Even when I’m not drinking. j/k)
How to Destroy The Virus:
I can tell you the virus easily succumbs to soap (and soap works with any temperature but suds up better with warm water & the suds help trap the virus) or the right percentage of alcohol and enough time (see why).
It is killed by many agents (we all know about hand sanitizer) but other alcohols and bleach, ammonia, and hydrogen peroxide and any of the 402 items on this list from the EPA will kill it, too. So will UV light. Just a warning, most of those agents shouldn’t be used on the actual food!! I felt obligated to say that. Ya all know why.
Hot water probably won’t buy you much as far as SARS-CoV-2 is concerned; at least at the temperatures of water produced by your water heater or dishwasher and the amount of time dishes are washed in a cycle. Advice to wash dishes on a sanitation cycle (or laundry on hot) are likely unfounded, especially in light of this study published in The Lancet regarding using heat to kill the virus.
This is my opinion, from my reading and putting two and two together (I’m a Grandma, Jim, not a Doctor – bad Star Trek pun that no-under 50 will probably get). It seems unlikely using a lot of extra detergents in your dishwasher (or laundry) will help either, although I’d love to pose this to a researcher. We do know the virus is killed by detergents with enough contact (and agitation will obviously spread that detergent around) and the suds as they are rinsed away, take with them both dead and any still living virus. It seems to me that the rinsing those suds away is a key step. (If you are unsure how well rinsed your clothes are, try running a load of towels through with no soap; you may be very surprised to see how they suds up. If your dishes smell like soap when you open up the dishwasher, you can suspect there was too much detergent to thoroughly rinse off.)
There was an excellent series (three parts with a fourth added) by Lisa Krieger, a science journalist, who posed questions to various experts. You can see it at the Mercury News w/o a subscription or fee here and the page that speaks about food, groceries, and temperature (on this page the experts questioned were from UC Berkely School of Public Health) can be found here. Note that many consider using detergent on vegetables to be a questionable practice and one of the docs mentions doing so, and one of the docs talks about using hot/vs cold water.
The CDC’s Information:
Here’s what the CDC offers as information about the Covid-19 and food and you can go to the links, One is How Covid-19 Spreads, and there is more information about Covid-19 and food on that page, and the final statement can be found on their page, Food Safety. Below are unaltered quotes from the CDC:
- Based on information about this novel coronavirus thus far, it seems unlikely that COVID-19 can be transmitted through food – additional investigation is needed.
- It may be possible that a person can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes, but this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads.
- In general, because of poor survivability of these coronaviruses on surfaces, there is likely very low risk of spread from food products or packaging that are shipped over a period of days or weeks at ambient, refrigerated, or frozen temperatures.
- Generally coronaviruses survive for shorter periods at higher temperatures and higher humidity than in cooler or dryer environments. However, we don’t have direct data for this virus, nor do we have direct data for a temperature-based cutoff for inactivation at this point.
- There is currently no evidence to support transmission of COVID-19 associated with food. (My note; This is often misquoted by those indicating something along the lines that the CDC says the virus cannot be transmitted by food. That is not what the CDC is indicating by that statement.)
The USDA’s Information:
The USDA says:
We are not aware of any reports at this time of human illnesses that suggest COVID-19 can be transmitted by food or food packaging.
The Terms, Coronavirus, Covid, SARS-CoV-2:
All known coronavirus (and there are many) are named and classified, according to the World Health Organization by the International Committee on Taxonomy of Viruses (ICTV). They all have an official name but are often referred to by a common name(s) and the disease they cause is usually called by yet a different name.
- When we speak of Coronavirus, we are most likely talking about Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). It’s the one we are most worried about today. Its often just referred to as Coronavirus or the virus. In the recent past, it was sometimes called Novel 2019 Coronavirus and 2019 nCoV.
- The disease caused by the Coronavirus is called officially Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19). Sometimes you’ll see it called Coronavirus Disease 2019, other times you’ll hear it called Covid or Covid-19 and a lot of the time it’s just called Corona or Coronavirus (the last two, mostly by us, the general public.)
- Confused? Don’t worry about it. You’ll often hear all the terms used interchangeably and President Trump has taken lately to calling it “The Plague” which is an improvement from his past label.
- There are many Coronavirus, including several we are all probably familiar with, SARS Associated Coronavirus (SARS-CoV). SARS (Sometimes called now SARS-CoV-1) was contained in 2004. Then there’s the virus the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV) which is still an ongoing concern. You’ll also sometimes hear about the four common human coronaviruses that have been circulating and have symptoms comparable to common cold or flu, ranging from mild to severe.
So that’s all I have for today, and I’ve updated a little since I put this out this morning. I just thought it was important to separate the few facts that we DO know from what is basically “advice.” Some of that advice out there might be good, but we don’t necessarily know because we know so little. And I’ve seen plenty of advice that has been pretty much unfounded, downright bizarre as well as dangerous and so much of it on “reliable” sites.
Let me know how things are in your neck of the woods! I don’t care if you’ve been “following” me for five days or five years, whether I know you online or in person, I’d love to hear from you!
Stay safe out there my friends!! Keep the faith.