“We were assured (by the Department of Public Health) that all merchandise in our store is safe,” Toccoa Quality Foods Human Resources Manager Laura Ritcey told ConnectLocal this morning, March 30.
*Correction: Quality Foods Manager Jonah Segars was incorrectly identified in the original article as "Josh Segars" this information has been corrected in the text of the article.
Earlier in the morning, the Toccoa Quality Foods released a public statement acknowledging that one of their employees has been tested for COVID-19 and received confirmation that the test results were positive for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.
“The Health Department notified us Saturday night (March 28) after we closed, and we took immediate action and the following day, we came in and cleaned everything,” store manager Josh Segars said, adding that the last time the employee had been in the store was on March 23. “Everything is safe, and we have been given the green light by the health department.”
The store is working with the Georgia Department of Public Health District 2 office and following guidelines and recommendations from DPH and the CDC,” said Ritcey, adding that the store had instituted heightened cleaning practices several weeks ago..
“Because of the date that was given to me that the employe was last in the store, we were’t required to do any further cleaning, but to protect our employees and our customers, we came in yesterday and did an extra thorough cleaning and disinfecting,” Ritcey added, saying the store had heightened their normal cleaning process a few weeks ago in response to the spread of COVID-19 into Georgia.
Health officials have classified business types as high risk or low risk of being a source of COVID-19 infection, and grocery stores are in the “low risk” category, Ritcey said.
Contracting SARS-CoV-2 through food, or its wrappings, is avoidable with proper cleaning processes, advise health experts. Available scientific research indicates that viruses can exist on cardboard food packaging for a day, and on plastic for several days, but it becomes less infectious over these periods. “My recommendation is just to wash your hands after you handle external packaging,” Angela Rasmussen, a virologist at Columbia University, said.
According to a recent USA Today report, “a recent study in the New England Journal of Medicine suggests that people may acquire the virus through the air and after touching contaminated objects. The same study said the virus was detectable up to 24 hours on cardboard and up to two to three days on plastic and stainless steel. But epidemiologists say the risk of getting infected from such surfaces is relatively low, because the virus soon decays”
There is no published evidence, and we are not aware of unpublished evidence that people have developed COVID-19 illness from touching food or food packaging. However, the virus causing COVID-19 can survive on surfaces and objects for a limited amount of time. The available evidence suggests this up to about 3 days on hard surfaces like metal or plastic and about 1 day on soft surfaces like cardboard.  This is unlike some other viruses that can persist on food or other surfaces for long periods. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommends four steps for safely dealing with food: Clean, Separate, Cook, and Chill. Visit the FDA for more frequently asked questions about COVID-19 including food safety. - Harvard School of Public Health