Health And Wellness

How Safe Is It To Order Takeout During Coronavirus?

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How Safe Is It To Order Takeout During Coronavirus?

Before the outbreak of COVID-19, you couldn’t walk one block in New York City without passing some dude on a bike delivering takeout to an apartment dweller having a lazy night in, or to office blocks of people putting in overtime. Now, while we sit indoors surrounded by our stockpiles of canned goods, the streets are empty.

Though non-essential workers across America and the globe have been ordered to work from home in their makeshift offices, a large number of restaurants remain open for takeout and delivery.

But how safe is it to order takeout during coronavirus?

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Takeout is necessary for people who cannot cook or don’t feel comfortable going out to the store. It’s also a great way of supporting the economy and restaurants who are among the worst affected businesses due to the pandemic.

However, a recent study released by The Center for Disease Control states that coronavirus can be detected up to 24 hours on cardboard, and up to 3 days on plastic. This raises the question: is it safe to order takeout, and is doing so causing more harm than good? 

Can takeout transmit coronavirus?

Luckily for those of us with weekly takeout cravings, the experts believe we are not at risk of contracting the virus through food.

Though COVID-19 is new to us, scientists are well acquainted with coronaviruses, and food-borne transmission is unheard of, according to Dr. William Schaffner, a professor of medicine in the department of infectious diseases at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine in Nashville, TN.

COVID-19 is primarily spread via droplets expelled through coughing or sneezing, meaning if you’re standing within six feet of an infected person when they cough or sneeze,  when the person speaks or exhales, droplets could make their way into your system, therefore spreading the disease.

Equally, if you happen to touch a surface with droplets on it and then touch your eyes, nose or mouth, an infection could be caused.

All this, for us non-scientists, means transmission via food is incredibly unlikely, because you don’t consume food via your respiratory tract, even though it can often feel like we inhale takeout when our food is gone in a matter of moments.

Dr. Schaffner explains, "The virus seems to be latching onto cells in the upper reaches of the nose, a place food doesn't enter.”

As for what would happen if your takeout food was somehow contaminated with COVID-19, Schaffner says, "Virus that found its way into your gastrointestinal tract would be killed by the acid in your stomach.” This claim is supported unanimously by experts. 

World Health Organization reporting from February states that food supplies will not spread the virus, while the Food and Drug Administration insists that, provided ordinary food safety measures are followed, our meals will not contaminate us. 

As for whether we can be contaminated by handling deliveries of food, this risk is easily diminished.

UberEats published their safety guidelines and insists they are working to provide drivers with cleaning supplies. Disposing of all packaging and washing your hands after collecting your takeout is another simple way to reduce your risk of infection.  

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Is it ethical to order from restaurants during the coronavirus pandemic? 

While we can easily avoid contracting COVID-19 by ordering meals to our doors, what does this pandemic mean for the restaurants and delivery drivers we order from?

So many of this industry’s workers are already underpaid, undervalued and uninsured, and the risk they face by continuing to work is only getting higher and higher. While some kitchens may be enforcing rules about keeping a distance from other workers and providing adequate protective materials, some are not.

New York Times article states that the most vulnerable to catching coronavirus are those whose jobs involve providing care and service to others but are not receiving care for themselves. And for most of these people, it's a choice between going to work and putting themselves at risk, or being unemployed. 

On the other hand, with the food industry quickly crumbling, ordering takeout is one of the few ways to support these workers. One study from restaurant analysts estimates that 75 percent of the independent restaurants that have closed during the pandemic may not reopen, even with intervention from local and state governments.

This is disastrous for the millions of already unemployed restaurant workers who will not be able to go back to work when the country eventually opens for business again. And the thought of a post-pandemic restaurant culture without some of our most-loved local businesses is a sobering one. 

How can we help restaurant workers?

With all of this information, how do we go forth and protect our fellow humans?

The choice is yours on whether you want to continue ordering takeout. But if you are, there are a few steps you can follow to ensure you’re making things as safe as possible for you and the people serving you:

1. Practice social distancing. 

Many delivery services have introduced “Leave at My Door” and no-contact delivery options to minimize social contact. Choosing this is the best way to make sure you’re not contributing to virus transmission.

2. Support local and small businesses.

These restaurants are going to feel the economic hit from this pandemic far quicker than massive chain corporations, and they need our support. Many Chinese restaurants, in particular, are suffering due to racism and misinformation about the virus.

By taking your business to a local food provider, you’re saving a crumbling economy. 

3. Tip well and leave a good rating.

Delivery drivers are putting themselves at risk in order to provide you with your meals, so be sure to show your appreciation. Most apps allow you tip electronically, so avoid tipping in cash because this involves contact.

Ratings also have an impact on whether a delivery driver gets work, and can help restaurants attract more business. It’s one click for you, but it means a lot to them! 

RELATED: 17 Ways To Help Your Community Get Through Coronavirus

Alice Kelly is a writer with a passion for lifestyle, entertainment and trending topics.