If you’re at higher risk for coronavirus — you’re over 60 or have underlying health conditions — it’s smart to steer clear of other people right now. 

“Limit your exposure. Don’t go out unless you have to,” says Kathryn A. Boling, M.D., a primary care provider at Mercy Personal Physicians at Lutherville in Lutherville, Maryland. “The more you go out, the more likely you may be in contact with someone who is sick and who puts you at risk.”

But you may be accustomed to regular runs to the grocery store, big box store or pharmacy. For now, online delivery options can be a smart choice for getting the groceries and household supplies you need. “You can get pretty much everything delivered, so there’s no reason to go out,” Boling says. 

How to sanitize after your delivery

Having your shopping delivered reduces your exposure, but doesn’t eliminate it. “Probably the risk is small, but if you’re taking the precaution of staying in your own home and getting things delivered you want to be as safe as possible,” Boling says. 

She shares her advice, but notes that there’s a lot of information we don’t know about this virus, so her recommendations could change. (we spoke with Dr. Boling on March 16.) Here’s what she suggests:

  • It’s a good idea to have the delivery person leave your packages and bags next to your door without interacting with you, if that’s possible. Some of the delivery services allow for this — you can pay and tip with the app.
  • If the delivery person comes into your house and puts items on your countertop, maintain a six-foot distance. If the delivery person is visibly coughing or sneezing, don’t allow them into your home.
  • Once your delivery is received, wipe down any contacted door knobs or handles on both sides with disinfecting wipes, antibacterial hand sanitizer or soap and water.
  • Next wash your hands, then put your groceries away. “I don’t think you have to wipe down every box,” Boling says.
  • Throw away the shopping bags — Boling doesn’t recommend keeping them.
  • Wash your hands again, and wipe down your countertops.

Lots of delivery options

If you’re not in the habit of ordering online, you might not realize you probably have a wide range of choices. 

Instacart and Shipt

If you’re concerned about aging parents, relatives or friends having what they need, you can place an order for them.

I live in Pennsylvania’s Lehigh Valley, not in a big city, but with Instacart I can have items delivered from ALDI, Price Rite, CVS, Wegmans, Costco, Sam’s Club, Petco, BJ’s, Fresh Market, Giant and Target. Shipt has some stores that overlap with Instacart, plus I can add Office Depot/Office Max, Petco, Redner’s and Weis.

On either of these sites, just type in your address or zip code to see if the service is available where you live — they cover a lot of the U.S.

Other grocery delivery options

Plus there are other options. Peapod and Walmart Grocery deliver in a lot of cities and towns, Amazon Prime Now delivers groceries from Whole Foods to many locations, and Amazon Pantry delivers shelf-stable items. Note that these services are being stretched thin by great demand, so they might not all be available in your area.

You can send supplies to people who need them

With these services, you can also have items delivered to another location. So, if you are concerned about aging parents, relatives, or friends having what they need, you can place an order for them. 

Deliveries can be a nice way to send fresh fruit, vegetables, and dairy to someone who is worried about leaving the house and mainly eating shelf-stable, packaged items.

Delivery comes at a cost

These services aren’t free, though some offer free trials. You may be faced with an annual fee, delivery fee and/or service fee. You should tip your shopper/driver. And prices may be higher than what you would pay in store. But the peace of mind that comes from limiting your person-to-person interactions right now might make it worth the price.