Senior Lifestyles

Surviving the COVID crisis: Masks, food safety and handwashing

In a health-care newsletter, physicians reported that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that everyone wear a cloth face mask covering the nose and mouth whenever they are out and about. The recommendation is based on evidence of widespread COVID-19 illness in communities across the country, along with new data about how easily the virus spreads.

The face covering should be worn in addition to, not instead of, practicing social distancing. A cloth face covering is not intended to protect the wearer, but it will very likely prevent the spread of the virus from the wearer to others. This is especially important knowing that there are a number of people who can have the virus – and pass it along to others – without experiencing symptoms, and that people can spread the virus for a couple of days before they develop symptoms. This is something that we can all do to protect our communities.

Is takeout food safe?

What about food safety?

According to the CDC, “Coronaviruses are generally thought to be spread from person-to-person through respiratory droplets. Currently there is no evidence to support transmission of COVID-19 associated with food.”

But before preparing or eating food, CDC officials suggested always washing your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds.

“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,” CDC officials said. “In general, because of poor survivability of these coronaviruses on surfaces, there is likely very low risk of spread from food products or packaging.”

If ordering food out or when receiving any type of packages or containers through the mail or delivery, it may be possible to get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it, then touching the mouth, nose or eyes.

To protect yourself when ordering takeout food, designate one person to handle the packaging, and carefully transfer the food contents to your own dishes. Throw the packaging away in the outdoor trash, then immediately wash your hands well with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.

Is hand sanitizer effective?

Hand sanitizer is recommended only if soap and water is not available. The CDC does not advise the use of homemade hand sanitizer products because of concerns over the correct use of ingredients. Vodka, for instance, has been touted by some as a substitute for rubbing alcohol for homemade hand sanitizer, but vodka is not an adequate substitute for rubbing alcohol. Some people also have recommended using essential oils, which do not work to kill germs.

In addition, hand sanitizer must be made under sterile conditions, which most of us don’t have at home. Because we should all be staying home as much as possible, soap and water should be available.

Carol Marak is an aging advocate at She holds a Certificate in the Fundamentals of Gerontology from UC Davis, School of Gerontology.

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