If you're like most people, a lot of your shopping is done online, with a large part of your purchases going through Amazon's site. What's new is the combination of an extraordinary surge in online shopping by homebound customers that has resulted in Amazon's announcing it was adding 100,000 employees, and widespread concerns about transmitting the coronavirus.

As local, state, and the federal government are encouraging people to practice social distancing to slow the spread of Covid-19, a lot of people are wondering about those packages that come straight to their doorsteps.

In reality, it's hard to know whether or not a package that comes into your home had contact with anyone who might already be positive for Covid-19. And, even if it does, it's hard to know whether that matters. The CDC says that it isn't likely that the virus can survive long in transit, though a study in The New England Journal of Medicine indicated that it can live on cardboard for up to 24 hours. 

Monday, on CNN's The Lead, host Jake Tapper asked Jay Carney, Amazon's senior vice president of global corporate affairs, what exactly people should do to be sure they aren't at risk of infection from Amazon deliveries.

"We are learning as we go, like everyone," said Carney. "We're consulting with medical experts to get the best information we can... There is that evidence that the virus can live on packaging for some period of time."

That's not exactly encouraging, though he went on to point out that "the WHO and CDC have not said that there is a case of transmission from packaging." Still, it leads to a reasonable question: What exactly should we do with those packages to stay safe? If it's possible for the virus to live on packaging for any period of time, what steps should you take to protect yourself?

"Our advice to customers is to take the precautions that they feel are the right ones for them," Carney said in response to a question about what people should do. Amazon has two specific suggestions that are worth it if you're concerned.

Wipe down packages with disinfectant.

The first suggestion is to wipe down packages with disinfectant. Most deliveries coming from Amazon have two pieces of packaging--the product packaging, and the shipping container. Realistically, you should probably just remove your product from the shipping package, and dispose of that box immediately. 

Once you've done that, the surface of the inside package can be wiped down with a disinfectant wipe. Most products shipped by Amazon have likely been in a package for some time, meaning that the inside product probably isn't a super likely source of infection. Still, if you want to be extra careful, you can wipe that surface as well.

After you've disposed of the packaging, and wiped everything else down, wash your hands. Which, by the way, is one of the most effective ways to prevent the spread of the virus anyway--meaning, you should be doing it anyway.

Leave them outside.

If that's not enough, another option is to leave the entire package outside, or, as Carney said, put it "in a remote location for a period of time." While it's not known exactly how long this particular virus can survive on cardboard packaging, in the long term it needs a host organism to survive and multiply. If it can survive on cardboard for only 24 hours, leaving it outside may kill it, allowing you to safely bring your package inside. 

If you have a garage, you can simply place the entire box outside, and leave it a few days. Then, to be safe, you can wipe down the inside package as described above. 

Published on: Mar 24, 2020
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