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Coronavirus: Is It Safe to Get Deliveries?

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With more than 50% of the U.S. population living under stay-at-home restrictions, companies that deliver food and household goods are inundated with orders. As they scramble to meet the demand, you may wonder if ordering in puts you or the people making your deliveries at risk.

The Question of Worker Safety

For some workers at least, the answer seems to be yes. The enormous flow of commerce may overwhelm companies’ abilities to protect their employees’ and subcontractors’ personal safety.

Reuters reported that delivery drivers for several companies say their jam-packed routes don’t allow them to follow recommended safety procedures, like stopping to wash their hands.

One driver for Uber and Postmates who showed symptoms of COVID-19 said he couldn’t qualify for paid sick leave without a confirmed diagnosis, but due to the testing shortage getting one proved impossible. He continued to work, Reuters reported.

Some workers for Amazon subcontractors told Reuters that vans and bins aren’t always sanitized between shifts, and they aren’t provided with personal protective gear -- sometimes, they don’t even have hand sanitizer. Amazon requires these things, but in practice individual companies may not be meeting their obligations.

Problems exist at the warehouse level, too. At least nine Amazon facilities have had employees test positive. “We are supporting the individuals, following guidelines from local officials, and are taking extreme measures to ensure the safety of all the employees at our sites,” Amazon said in a written statement. The company has also announced enhanced protective measures to encourage social distancing and hygiene while at work.

Are Packages Safe?

Pair all these issues with a study last week in the New England Journal of Medicine that found the virus was viable for up to 24 hours on cardboard and even longer on plastic and stainless steel, and you may be tempted to cancel all your orders. Not so fast, says Joseph Vinetz, MD, a professor of infectious diseases at Yale University.

“Nobody’s gotten this infection anywhere in the world from packages,” he says. “You can detect the virus on cardboard with a molecular test, but that doesn’t mean it can infect you.”

The CDC also says you’re unlikely to contract COVID-19 from surfaces. And the World Health Organization says, “The likelihood of an infected person contaminating commercial goods is low and the risk of catching the virus that causes COVID-19 from a package that has been moved, travelled, and exposed to different conditions and temperature is also low.”

If you’re still nervous, though, do what Vinetz does. “I love Amazon, I go to restaurants and get takeout, I go to the grocery store. I wash my hands, I spritz the outside of my reusable bag with alcohol or wipe it with a wipe, and that’s perfectly fine,” he says. “It’s much more important to stay away from people, keep 6 feet of social distancing. Stay at home.”

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Meet Our Staff

  • Meredith Saillant,
    MD
    Pediatrician

    Dr. Saillant completed undergraduate and graduate degrees at Brown University and  The University of Michigan, respectively, before graduating from Wayne State University School of Medicine in 2000.  She completed her pediatric residency in 2003 training at Children's Hospital Boston and Boston Medical Center through the Boston Combined Residency Program in Pediatrics.  She founded the town-wide middle school baseline concussion screening program in conjunction with the Town of Brookline in 2012 and has served as a consultant to the Pediatric Physicians Organization at Children's Hospital on their concussion treatment protocol. She is on the board of the Massachusetts Concussion Management Coalition. She joined the practice in 2003.

  • Rebecca Horne,
    MD
    Pediatrician

    Dr. Horne graduated from Brown University and received her MD from the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health.  Before going to medical school, she spent a year in Eritrea working in HIV/AIDS awareness and a year working at Planned Parenthood's public outreach department.  Dr. Horne completed her pediatric residency in the Boston Combined Residency Program at Boston Children's Hospital and Boston Medical Center.  She spent several years at Boston Children's Hospital providing care for patients in the Young Parents Program.  She joined the practice in 2010.

  • Julie Dollinger, MD
    Pediatrician

    Dr. Dollinger graduated from Princeton University and Albert Einstein College of Medicine, and also holds a Master's degree in pharmacology from New York University.  She completed her pediatric training at Boston Children's Hospital, and has practiced general pediatrics in the greater Boston area for over 20 years.  Dr. Dollinger's areas of interests include developmental-behavioral pediatrics, adolescent medicine, natural/holistic medicine, and adoption. Dr. Dollinger has worked in the Indian Health Service in Chinle, AZ and Wolf Point, MT; she has travelled on medical missions to Cuba and Dneprepotrovsk, Ukraine.  Locally, she is a longtime member of the Maimonides Society (the medical philanthropic arm of Boston Combined Jewish Philanthropies) and has been medical consultant to several area preschools and private schools.  She also serves as Director of the Community Pediatrics Program at Boston Childrens Hospital.She joined the practice in 2017

  • Shana Zandman, MD
    Pediatrician

    Dr. Zandman graduated from Cornell University where she studied Human Biology and Development.  She received her MD from Mount Sinai School of Medicine in Manhattan and completed her pediatric residency at the Floating Hospital for Children at Tufts Medical Center.  Dr. Zandman completed one year as Chief Resident at Floating Hospital and then worked for two years in a busy pediatric private practice in Barrington, Rhode Island prior to joining the practice in 2014.  She enjoys spending time with her husband and two young girls, cooking and international travel.