Coronavirus lockdown drives food delivery, takeout orders

Can I Get Takeout, Delivery, Fast Food During COVID-19 Pandemic?

Coronavirus lockdown drives food delivery, takeout orders

Night after night of cooking at home is starting to feel more a chore than a fun activity. Ordering takeout sounds oh so tempting right now. But, you might be wondering if it’s safe to get food delivered or grab to-go dishes from your favorite neighborhood restaurants.

Experts have good news for burned out home chefs. “There is no evidence to suggest that food produced in the United States can transmit COVID-19,” according to the Food and Drug Administration’s current guidance. The World Health Organization confirmed this in February, and food safety authorities are keeping close tabs on the latest research.

“There is currently no evidence of SARS-COV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, being transmitted by food or food packaging,” says Erin DiCaprio, PhD, assistant specialist of community food safety in UC Davis’ food science and technology department. “SARS-CoV-2 is spread by respiratory droplet not by the fecal-oral route, which is how foodborne pathogens are spread.”

In order to make you sick, the novel coronavirus “needs to enter your respiratory system via your mucous membranes,” per DiCaprio. Your mouth is one mucous membrane, but the novel coronavirus is most often infecting via the upper reaches of your nasal cavity.

Sneezing, coughing, and touching shared surfaces are ly the main sources of spread. Whereas food passes through your mouth directly to your stomach, where stomach acid would kill it.

So, it is highly unly to contract the novel coronavirus from food, unless you actually inhaled your food.

Is it safe to order takeout during coronavirus?

When lockdowns started to curb the novel coronavirus pandemic, many restaurants switched to serving takeout only to stay open. They’re still serving up your fave foods, and experts say it’s a great way to safely support your community and take a night off from cooking.

Restaurants have added safety measures to maintain social distancing and limit the spread of the novel coronavirus, and experts say they’re effective.

“Many that have curbside pickup require the person delivering to wear face masks and sometimes gloves,” says DiCaprio.

“Most food delivery services are also taking a similar approach, many of which will do hands-free delivery, leaving food at your door so you do not have to encounter the deliverer.”

That’s all on top of the usual food safety regulations typically in place to avoid foodborne illness and contamination.

“This requires strict controls on hand washing and making sure that no one that is sick prepares food, among many additional safety measures,” says DiCaprio.

“I highlight these two because they are really the most important in ensuring that there is no cross contamination of food with SARS-CoV-2 during preparation. Most have also implemented other controls, such as wearing face masks, as an added precaution.”

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The food is not the problem. “The main issue is exposing yourself to other people and touching contaminated surfaces,” according to Dr. Rishi Desai, MD, chief medical officer for health education platform Osmosis.

org, and former epidemic intelligence officer with the Centers for Disease Control. “With takeout, the main risk is at the point of getting the food from the delivery person.

Ideally they would drop the food off, simply leave, and then you would go out and grab the food a minute later.”

Key factors for safely ordering takeout, per Dr. Desai:

  • Order and pay for food online
  • Have food delivered to your home
  • Wait until the delivery person who dropped off the food is at least six feet away
  • Transfer food onto a bowl or plate. Minimizing dishes sounds nice, but it’s worth plating your takeout. Coronavirus was detectable for up to 24 hours on cardboard and three days on plastic and stainless steel according to a research letter study published in The New England Journal of Medicine in March.
  • Recycle or throw away all packaging and then wash hands for 20 seconds with soap and water. The outer packaging has come in contact with other people as your order made its way to you, and if it’s plastic it can harbor coronavirus up to three days.

Is it safe to order pizza during coronavirus?

Pizza night is back, folks. At least eating your fave pie in the comfort of your own home is a-okay. Specifically, experts say the high-heat pizza ovens and no-contact delivery make it safe. “I think it's okay to order pizza as long as it's done carefully so that there's no interaction when the delivery person drops off the pizza,” says Dr. Desai.

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The baking process helps add peace of mind, too. “It is believed that cooking will inactivate the virus ( previous research with similar viruses),” says DiCaprio. Another coronavirus, SARS-CoV-1, was previously shown to be eliminated at cooking temperatures.

Is it safe to order sushi during coronavirus?

Sushi isn’t cooked, obvi, but that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy your go-to salmon skin roll RN. “Yes sushi is safe,” says Dr. Desai. “The disease is spread from person-to-person not through raw/uncooked food, so ordering sushi and other similar foods salad through takeout is safe.”

DiCaprio agrees and explains why you don’t need to be concerned about your California roll. “For raw foods, it is important to consider that food really is not a high touch surface,” she says. “Few people would be touching that food prior to coming into you home. Restaurants following the good food safety practices will not have anyone with a COVID-19 infection preparing your food.”

Is it safe to get fast food during coronavirus?

That burger and fries craving comes on strong staying at home, and watching fast food commercials between news broadcasts doesn’t make it go away. (Just me?) Unfortunately, this is not the time to give into that craving.

According to Dr. Desai, it’s not safe to order or grab fast food with the current novel coronavirus pandemic. It’s the fast food setup that's specifically higher risk for novel coronavirus spread among employees and customers.

“Drive-thru situations require that the person buying the food interact with a fast food employee directly,” says Dr. Desai. “In addition, with fast food, the employee is exposed to a very high volume of individuals and is therefore at higher risk of getting exposed to the disease themselves (and therefore higher risk of spreading it).”

Takeout is a great way to support your community.

As long as you order food and get it delivered with social distancing guidelines in mind, there’s a very low risk of coming in contact with the novel coronavirus.

“Basically, my concern with the safety of restaurants is not with the food or the food packaging but with the high density of people coming together to share respiratory droplets, not food, in an enclosed setting,” says DiCaprio.

“Nothing is ever zero risk, but the risk of getting COVID-19 from takeout is extremely low.”

“We all want to support or local economies and the get back to some sort of normalcy again,” she adds. “I think takeout is a great way to support your local restaurants and protect the public health in your community.”

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Effects of Coronavirus Pandemic on Food Delivery Businesses

Coronavirus lockdown drives food delivery, takeout orders
Instacart's “Leave at My Door Delivery” feature, initially designed for customers not home at the time of delivery, is also a convenient feature for customers during COVID-19.

— Instacart

For as many people among us who are panic-buying toilet paper and toothpaste (and flipping out at the sight of empty shelves), there are thousands who are skipping the in-store experience altogether and shifting to delivery apps for everything from groceries to lattes and lunches.

In fact, there have been a record number of downloads in the past week alone, according to data from Apptopia, an independent research firm that analyzes the app marketplace.

At the same time, an unprecedented number of restaurants have shuttered across the country.

Analysis from the data science team at Womply of transaction trends year over year at 400,000 local businesses across the country, including 48,000 restaurants and 4,600 bars, revealed that revenue on March 13 was down 19.

6% year over year. “With many restaurants closed or only open for takeout, that number should continue to drop rapidly,” the firm found.

By contrast, “Driven by consumer panic, grocery stores saw their highest daily revenues for 2020 last Friday, with consumer spending up 87.4% year over year,” the analysts said. Relatedly, curbside pickup is also on the rise.

These huge swings on both sides beg the question: Can delivery apps not only help keep us healthier, but also help save the economy during the coronavirus crisis?

“U.S. consumer interest for restaurants has fallen by 54%, and for nightlife businesses by 69%,” according to Yelp’s data science editor Carl Bialik.

“Pizzerias, fast food restaurants, grocery stores, and fruits and veggies shops are all grabbing a much bigger share of the pie than they were a week ago (up 44%, 64%, 160%, and 102%, respectively, in share of daily U.S. consumer actions,” he wrote.

Apptopia’s data suggests that the surge in downloads may prove fruitful. Their report found that March 15 was a new record for Instacart, Walmart Grocery, Shipt and Target that represented an increase of 218%, 160%, 124% and 98%, respectively, over the average number of daily downloads in February.

Now that residents in major cities such as San Francisco have been directed to “shelter in place,” that is, stay home unless they have a medical reason or to obtain necessary supplies, those numbers may get a further boost.

Watch the replay from our latest Roadmap for Rebuilding event, where the panel offers the strategies you need to build a cohesive and productive team, even in this new normal of remote work.

‘Leave at my door’ deliveries surge

Instacart, for one, has taken extra measures to ensure that deliveries can be made as safely as possible.

In a Medium post, the company said, “We've worked closely with a panel of health and safety experts to develop a robust set of guidelines to ensure you’re able to continue shopping safely.

Our goal is to make sure you have the resources you need to take the appropriate preventative actions and make use of precautionary food handling measures.”

That includes its “Leave at My Door Delivery” feature, which the company said was originally designed to provide a more flexible option for customers that may not be home at the time of delivery. In the first week of March, for one, “we observed a significant surge in consumer adoption and opt-in usage of the feature,” Instacart said in a statement.

During that time period, more than 25% of all orders utilized this feature, the company stated.

The following weekend, “Instacart experienced the highest customer demand in its history in the amount of groceries sold on our platform,” the company said in a statement.

“The average customer’s purchase is up more than 20% month-over-month and includes items hand sanitizer, vitamins, powdered milk, diapers, face masks, and canned goods.”

[Instacart may have been making safety and convenience a priority for its customers, however, the company's gig workers, who handle the in-store shopping and delivery, are saying otherwise, planning a nationwide walkout on March 30.

They say Instacart is failing to provide hand sanitizer, disinfectant wipes and soap to them for free, nor will it provide hazard pay of an additional $5 per order, the workers say.

Until Instacart provides these things as well as extends paid sick leave to at-risk workers with pre-existing conditions, those participating in the walkout won't be reporting for duty.]

Hungryroot, an online grocery service has also experienced significant growth in both customer acquisition and reorder rates recently, and they expect the uptick in demand to continue.

“We're also making notable changes to both our supply chain and delivery model (e.g.

, same day delivery) to ensure we can continue meeting the demand for those customers in need,” the company said in a statement.

Meal delivery service Blue Apron has experienced stock surges and an increased demand for meal kits as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. —

Blue Apron makes a comeback

Both Blue Apron and Waitr Holdings meal delivery services experienced stock surges, as demand has increased for their meal kits. Waitr stock increased tenfold.

To meet this demand, Blue Apron’s CEO Linda Findley Kozlowski said in an emailed statement: “We are hiring for temporary and permanent positions in our Linden, New Jersey, and Richmond, California, fulfillment centers and hope to create employment opportunities for individuals who may have been displaced by the restaurant or foodservice industry.”

For it’s part, Starbucks has moved to mobile ordering and takeout only as of March 15. The company declined to provide details on the number of app downloads or business metrics at this time.

Not all delivery options are experiencing this surge. Even with contactless delivery, Uber Eats, Grubhub, DoorDash and the are reportedly slowing down, in part as consumers reacted to both the expense of ordering prepared meals from restaurants and the relative safety of knowing how their food was prepared at home.

The upshot, according to Bain analysts, was that it’s unclear whether the economy of food will carry us through these uncertain financial times.

As Marc-André Kamel and Joëlle de Montgolfier wrote, “Few businesses could hope to predict the course of the pandemic with any accuracy.

However, retailers do have the power to quickly develop and roll out contingency plans to address the crisis head-on and ensure business continuity, while playing their role in minimizing the virus’s spread.”

For more resources from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce:

CO— aims to bring you inspiration from leading respected experts. However, before making any business decision, you should consult a professional who can advise you your individual situation.

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Published March 30, 2020


Are food deliveries and groceries safe during coronavirus pandemic? Yes, experts say

Coronavirus lockdown drives food delivery, takeout orders

(CNN)President Donald Trump and governors of various states have suggested Americans should avoid restaurants due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Instead we've been told to either order delivery, takeout or carefully shop at the grocery store, which has left many people wondering: How safe is it to do all of those things as the virus spreads?

It's not the food itself

First, the good news: The virus is not ly to be transmitted by food itself, saidDr. Ian Williams, chief of the Outbreak Response and Prevention Branch of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which investigates foodborne and waterborne illnesses.

“There is no evidence out there that, so far with [Covid-19], that its foodborne-driven or food service-driven,” Williams said in an information webinar. “This really is respiratory, person-to-person. At this point there is no evidence really pointing us towards food [or] food service as ways that are driving the epidemic.”

The US Food and Drug Administration echoed that sentiment, saying on its website that it's not aware of any reports suggesting Covid-19 can be transmitted by food or food packaging.

At least that's what we know right now, and experts have said they will continue to evaluate the virus.

However, the FDA did issue a reminder about everyone in the food supply chain following proper hygiene practices, including washing hands and surfaces regularly to keep the risk level low.

If you're picking up takeout or getting delivery

More reassuring news: There's little risk in contracting the virus from food or food packaging picked up at a takeout window or from a restaurant, said Benjamin Chapman, who is a professor and food safety specialist at North Carolina State University.

“I want to be clear that food or the packages could carry the virus, but the risk of transmission is very, very low,” Chapman said. “This is a remote possibility and thousands if not millions of times less ly than any of the other exposure routes. Really, really low risk.”

Any real risk of contamination, he said, would come from the worker handing out the food.

“There's a chance that the food employee in the window is sick, but ly the food business is following employee health policies and local health department recommendations to keep these individuals home,” Chapman said.

“A lot of the delivery services are working on best practices,” said Don Schaffner, an extension specialist in food science specializing in microbial risks, handwashing and cross-contamination.

Those include contactless deliveries, such ascustomers asking for food to be left on a porch or at a doorstep, and using touch-free and cashless transactions.

Even more comforting news: Even if you did eat food with the virus, there are not many receptors in the digestive track for the virus to cling to, so swallowing the virus would not ly lead to contracting the illness.

In other words, your digestive system would get rid of it, Williams said.

Despite the small risk, there are steps to take for those who are concerned, especially the elderly, who need to be more careful. Experts recommend they pick up any takeout or delivery packages with gloves.

“You can remove your food from the external packaging, properly dispose or recycle it,” and put the food on a plate, Schaffner advises. Then after disposing of the gloves, “wash and or sanitize your hands before sitting down to eat.”

If you're going to the supermarket

Here's the tougher news: Crowds full of people that can cough or sneeze or spread their germs on grocery carts and checkout lines.

That's part of why social distancing has been encouraged and part of the reason grocery stores can be a problem.

Many people are feeling stressed and anxious about food, despite being told food supplies are fine and super markets will be restocked. For those worried about the crowds, going during off hours can help.

“People in the store [are] the top risk on my list,” Chapman said, when it comes to grocery stores.

Anyone who is sick or thinks they might be sick should avoid going to stores, experts say.

“Think of the other people that would be affected,” Schaffner said. “If you are sick, please strongly consider using a delivery service.”

There are things you can do at the store on your own, if you have the supplies. So you don't need to even touch a cart or basket, bring gloves or wipes or hand sanitizer with you, along with those planet-friendly reusable grocery bags.

When it comes to food and food packaging inside a grocery store, again, the risks are low, experts said.

“While it's possible that the virus gets deposited [on packaging] we have no indication from epidemiology or the literature that this is a risk factor for Covid-19 or other respiratory illnesses,” Chapman said. “Even with the millions of cases of influenza each year, packaging isn't something we talk about.”

Even in a worse case scenario, the coronavirus is only ly to be an issue if an infected person coughed or sneezed directly on the food or packaging, rather than if they just touched it,both food scientists said.

In order to catch the virus that way, though, you'd have to touch the contaminated item, then touch your face, they said.

All the health agencies and experts have stressed keeping hands away from the face as a primary means of avoiding the virus.

Which is why, Schaffner said, when you leave the store, you should make sure to sanitize your hands.

“If you are worried, you can always wash and or sanitize your hands after handling anything that you think might be contaminated” Schaffner said.

The bottom line, experts ssaid, is that there is an extremely low risk of contracting coronavirus from the food supply.

“As a good friend used to say, the risks of not eating still outweigh the risks of eating,” Schaffner said.

CNN Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen contributed to this report.

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Community, Work, and School

Coronavirus lockdown drives food delivery, takeout orders

What Food and Grocery Pick-Up and Delivery Drivers Need to Know about COVID-19

Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is a respiratory illness caused by a virus called SARS-CoV-2.

 Symptoms often include cough, shortness of breath, fever, chills, muscle pain, sore throat, or new loss of taste or smell. Our understanding of how the virus spreads is evolving as we learn more about it, so check the CDC website for the latest information.

The virus is thought to spread mainly from person-to-person:

Recent studies indicate that the virus can be spread by people who are not showing symptoms.

 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.

This is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads, but we are still learning more about this virus. Older adults and people of any age who have serious underlying medical conditions may be at higher risk for more serious complications from COVID-19.

As a food and grocery pick-up and delivery driver ( Uber Eats, Grubhub, DoorDash, Postmates, Instacart), how can I protect myself and others?

Potential sources of exposure include having close contact with individuals with COVID-19 when picking up or delivering food or groceries, or by touching surfaces touched or handled by a person with COVID-19.

Stay home if you are sick

  • If you develop a fever or symptoms, such as cough or difficulty breathing, call your healthcare provider for medical advice before visiting their office.
  • You should not return to work until the criteria to discontinue home isolation are met, after talking with your doctor.

Wear a cloth face covering

  • CDC recommends wearing cloth face coverings in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain, especially in areas where a lot of people are infected.
  • Cloth face coverings may prevent people who don’t know they have the virus from transmitting it to others.
  • These face coverings are not surgical masks or respirators and are not appropriate substitutes for them in workplaces where masks or respirators are recommended or required.

Limit contact

  • Avoid close contact with individuals as much as possible when picking up food, groceries, or other items at restaurants or grocery stores. This helps protect both you and the workers at the restaurants or grocery stores bringing the items to you.
  • Practice contactless deliveries to the greatest extent possible. Contactless deliveries allow you to leave a delivery at a doorstep, move back to a distance greater than 6 feet away while verifying receipt of the delivery with the person getting the delivery, and try to do all interactions electronically (e.g., in an app or over a phone). This eliminates the need for close contact between you and the person getting the delivery.
  • Limit your contact with frequently touched surfaces during pickups and deliveries, such as countertops, elevator buttons, doorbells, door handles, radio buttons, etc.
  • Avoid sharing scanners, pens, or other tools with customers.
  • Use a foot, shoulder, elbow, hip, or forearm instead of hands when opening doors at pick-up and delivery sites, if possible.

Practice Everyday Preventive Actions

  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth.
  • Proper hand hygiene is an important infection control measure. Keep in mind where you can access and use facilities with soap and water during your shift. Wash your hands regularly with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer containing at least 60% alcohol.
  • Key times to clean hands include:
    • Before, during, and after preparing food
    • Before eating food
    • After using the toilet
    • After blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing
  • Additional times to clean hands on the job include:
    • Before and after work shifts
    • Before and after work breaks
    • Before and after making a delivery
    • After putting on, touching, or removing cloth face coverings
    • After touching frequently touched surfaces such as doorbells or door handles
    • Before wearing and after removing cold-weather gloves
    • Before and after pumping gas
  • Carry tissues in your vehicle and use them when you cough, sneeze or touch your face. Throw used tissues in the trash.

Clean and Disinfect

  • Get and carry cleaning and disinfectant spray or disposable wipes and a trash bag with you in your vehicle.
  • Clean and disinfect commonly touched surfaces at the beginning and end of each shift, particularly if the vehicle is also used by other drivers, following the directions on the cleaning product’s label. Clean surfaces that are visibly dirty with detergent or soap and water prior to disinfection. Frequently touched surfaces include the steering wheel, gearshift, signaling levers, door handles, and seatbelt buckles.
  • Wipe down items such as pens and electronic signature pads/mobile devices if shared with a delivery recipient after each use.
  • Appropriate disinfectants to use for hard non-porous surfaces include:

What steps should the food or grocery delivery company take for whom I am a driver?

The food or grocery delivery company for whom you are a contract driver should develop and share a set of COVID-19 health and safety measures to inform and help protect delivery drivers. They should:

  • Actively encourage sick delivery drivers to stay home.
  • Encourage the use of and assist you in obtaining hand sanitizer and disposable wipes and other cleaning products so that frequently touched surfaces can be wiped down by drivers.
  • Provide you with information on where to find accurate information about COVID-19 and how it spreads.
  • Develop policies and technology options that allow and prioritize contactless deliveries (e.g., no-knock, no-signature, all electronic credit card transactions, etc.) that limit or eliminate close contact between delivery drivers and suppliers and purchasers.

Where can I get more information?

Stay informed. Review health and safety measures taken by your delivery service company about COVID-19. See these sources for more information on worker exposures to COVID-19:


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