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How To Shop Safely During The Pandemic, According To Health Experts

Now that we’re over a year into the pandemic, many of us have acclimated to the "new normal." At this point, it's almost hard to remember a time when seemingly mundane errands like grocery shopping, cashing a check, or buying an overpriced latte were possible without masking and social distancing. That said, these everyday tasks can still be accomplished safely and are, according to most medical professionals, pretty low risk — especially as vaccines continue to be distributed and masks continue to be worn. 
To help guide us through season 3 (or is it 4 at this point?) of the strangest year in history, we partnered with PayPal and tapped three health experts for tips on how to safely shop as we continue to take caution and social distance: Melissa Bondy, PhD, Professor and Chair of the Department of Epidemiology and Public Health at Stanford University; Jessica Justman, MD, Associate Professor of Medicine in Epidemiology at Columbia University; and Jeanine Genkinger, PhD, Associate Professor of Epidemiology at Columbia University. Read on for their recommendations, so you can continue shopping with safety front of mind.
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Wear two masks
Justman agrees with White House Chief Medical Officer Dr. Anthony Fauci: Two masks are indeed better than one. “Double-mask and try to avoid stores that are too crowded,” she says. Adds Genkinger: “Remember to wear each mask properly so it fits snugly on your face and covers your nose and mouth.” That means no chin straps, which protects neither. 
Plan your purchases ahead of time
While many stores are taking advanced safety precautions per the CDC, Bondy recommends a targeted shopping approach, as IRL shopping still allows for plenty of potential exposure. “Know exactly what you want going into the store,” she says. “I haven’t gone anywhere to browse at all.” If curbside pickup is an option, allowing you to place your order ahead of time and pick it up without even entering the store, take it.

Make touch-free payments
“Pay with QR codes or touch-free payments as often as possible,” says Genkinger. “That way, you can pay without having to touch things that other people have had contact with.” Fortunately, PayPal and Venmo offer a touch-free way to make in-store payments even more seamless. Just open the PayPal or Venmo app on your phone, show your QR code to the sales associate to scan at any retailer that accepts PayPal and Venmo QR codes in-store, and be on your merry way — all without having to insert your card or touch the card reader buttons. PayPal and Venmo QR Codes are now available to use at checkout at CVS Pharmacy stores nationwide, alongside hundreds of thousands of other businesses.
Apply hand sanitizer frequently
All experts agree that the tried-and-true rules for virus protection still apply, so keep that trusty clip-on bottle of sanitizer handy, at least for now. “Always use hand sanitizer once you leave the store,” Genkinger says. Slathering some on before you shop probably wouldn’t hurt either. And as soon as you get home, she notes, “it is important to make sure you wash your hands properly.”
Stay home if you feel sick
Overall, shopping in-person can be safe, so long as you aren’t knowingly going out into the world while sick. It’s also important to always be aware of the restrictions within your local community. “If you have any concerns or are a high-risk individual, then there are always options to have food or other necessities delivered to your location to limit exposures.” And really, what’s more convenient than that?
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