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Summit County Emergency Blog

Emergency blog
Activated during disasters and emergencies to provide critical public information. Administered by the Summit County Office of Emergency Management.

Apr 02

Do I need to sanitize my groceries? What about mail or books from the library?

Posted on April 2, 2020 at 4:15 PM by Sarah Wilkinson

First and foremost, we are so grateful for all of our grocery store employees who are working tirelessly to keep shelves stocked, for truck drivers delivering supplies, for librarians and utility workers, for mail carriers and delivery drivers, and everyone else that is working during this time to help keep our lives as close to normal as possible.

If you’re wondering about how you can best protect yourself while taking care of necessary activities like grocery shopping or picking up the mail, you’re not the only one. Many people have questions about how COVID-19 is spread and if you can catch it by touching your groceries, mail, a library book, or other items. 

A recent study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19) can be detected on cardboard for up to 24 hours, and on stainless steel or plastic for up to three days. Though it does seem to survive on surfaces, the number of virus particles decreases rapidly at the start, then slowly approaches zero over time. However, these are still preliminary findings, and there are ways we can all take precautions until more is known about the virus.

How are grocery stores following the social distancing guidelines?
Our grocery stores are implementing many measures to ensure that stores are as safe as possible for our community. 

Natural Grocers 2

Stores have posted signage about social distancing, are using their loudspeaker systems to remind shoppers about maintaining a 6-foot distance from other shoppers, have installed signage/tape in checkout aisles to indicate proper distancing, and are instating regular, scheduled hand-washing for employees, among other practices. All stores are very diligent about inquiring with employees about wellness and ensuring they do not have any symptoms. If you feel that social distancing guidelines are not being followed, all stores recommend that you contact the store manager to voice your concerns.

If you are headed to the grocery store, try to go during quiet hours and maintain social distancing from other shoppers and employees while in the store. We recommend making less frequent trips and if you can afford, buy enough food for about two weeks. There’s no need to buy everything on the shelves as stores are receiving regular deliveries to restock their shelves.

The best advice remains: Wash your hands before you shop and immediately after you shop, do not touch your face, and try to stay at least six feet away from other shoppers and store employees.

Should I be wearing a face mask? What about store employees?
The current CDC guidance for the general public is that it is only necessary to wear a face mask if you are sick and are around other people, for example sharing a room or vehicle, or at a healthcare provider’s office. If you are not sick, the CDC only recommends wearing a face mask if you are caring for someone who is sick. Since face masks are in short supply, they should be saved for healthcare workers, first responders, caregivers, and other high-risk groups.

According to a recent NPR interview, the CDC Director Robert Redfield stated the agency is reviewing data around mask use by the general public. If you are healthy, and choose to wear a face mask, remember there is a shortage and masks like N-95s should be saved for healthcare workers, first responders, caregivers, and other high risk populations. There are many articles online about using household items like bandanas to create a face mask for personal use. 

Since current CDC guidelines do not recommend that healthy people wear face masks, grocery store employees are not required to wear them. Store management is allowing employees to wear a face mask voluntarily if it is their personal preference. 

Do I need to sanitize my groceries after grocery shopping?
The best and most important way to avoid contract COVID-19 is to wash your hands frequently and sanitize all high touch surfaces like tabletops, door handles, light switches, sink faucets, and phones. 

As for washing and sanitizing your groceries, the CDC always recommends washing fruits and vegetables under running water—even if you do not plan to eat the peel. For packaged goods, there are no current recommendations to sanitize those items; however, if it gives you peace of mind, you can wipe down cans, bottles and boxes with soap and water or disinfectant wipes before putting them away.

Can I get COVID-19 from touching my mail or packages?
The United States Postal Service stated, “the CDC, the World Health Organization, as well as the Surgeon General have indicated that there is currently no evidence that COVID-19 is being spread through the mail.” So while it is believed that COVID-19 could be spread through contact with a contaminated surface or objects and then touching your face, mouth, or possibly eyes, it is unlikely that it is being spread via mail or packages. We do always recommend taking precautions and so you should wash your hands after handling your mail or packages, and make sure not to touch your face while handling those items.  

I got books and DVDs from curbside-pickup at the library – should I sanitize them?
The Summit County Libraries are closed to the public but are offering curbside pickup for materials at all three branches.

The Library is taking extra precautions to ensure the safety of their employees and patrons, and have implemented the following procedures: staff wear gloves to process materials, they disinfect the book drop and other processing areas, washing hands immediately after handling materials and after removing gloves, and sanitize the covers/outside cases of all materials. As an additional precaution, all materials that are returned to the library are “quarantined” for 3 days before being processed. 

As always, you should wash your hands after handling an item and make sure not to touch your face. If you are touching the book or item frequently, and it will not cause any damage, you can wipe down the cover or the outside case with a disinfectant wipe.

An additional option for patrons who do not want to check out physical materials is to access Summit County Library’s large collection of ebooks and other materials for digital download

Mar 31

Limiting the spread of COVID-19 within a home

Posted on March 31, 2020 at 8:30 AM by Sarah Wilkinson

Someone in my house is sick with flu-like illness.  They may have COVID-19.  How can I protect the rest of my household from also getting COVID-19?

Current CDC guidance for persons that have COVID-19 like symptoms (fever, cough, shortness of breath, etc.) includes a recommendation to stay at home and self-monitor for symptoms.  Most people who get sick will have mild illness and should recover at home.* Care at home can help stop the spread of COVID-19 in the community and help protect people who are at risk for getting seriously ill.  

COVID-19 spreads between people who are in close contact (within about 6 feet) through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes and, to a lesser extent, from contaminated surfaces. If you are caring for someone at home, monitor for emergency signs, prevent the spread of germstreat symptoms, and carefully consider when to end home isolation.

Monitor the person for worsening symptoms. Know the emergency warning signs.

  • Have their healthcare provider’s contact information on hand.
  • If they are getting sicker, call their healthcare provider. For medical emergencies, call 911 and notify the dispatch personnel that they have or are suspected to have COVID-19.

If you develop emergency warning signs for COVID-19 get medical attention immediately. Emergency warning signs include**:
  • Trouble breathing
  • Persistent pain or pressure in the chest
  • New confusion or inability to arouse
  • Bluish lips or face
**This list is not all inclusive. Please consult your medical provider for any other symptoms that are severe or concerning.

Prevent the spread of germs when caring for someone who is sick
Studies have demonstrated that COVID can spread within a household.  Taking the following precautions will further minimize the possibility of others becoming sick.  
  • Have the person stay in their own room as much as possible. If this is not possible, isolate their living area to the extent possible such as having a dedicated area within a shared room.
    • If possible, have them use a separate bathroom.
    • Avoid sharing personal household items, like dishes, towels, and bedding.
    • If facemasks are available, have them wear a facemask when they are around people, including you.
    • If the sick person can’t wear a facemask, you should wear one, if available, while in the same room with them.
    • If the sick person needs to be around others (within the home, in a vehicle, or doctor’s office), they should wear a facemask.
  • Household members need to wash hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after interacting with the sick person. If soap and water are not readily available, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol. Cover all surfaces of your hands and rub them together until they feel dry. 
    • If you are unable to locate hand sanitizer, contact the Breckenridge Distillery (970 547-9759) or the county Emergency Operations Center (970 668-9730).
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • High touch surfaces that may have been contaminated should be cleaned and disinfected daily.  Wear disposable gloves, if available, when cleaning and disinfecting surfaces and discard when finished. Wash hands immediately after cleaning and disinfecting. 
    • Always follow instructions when using cleaning and disinfection products. 
    • If surfaces are dirty, they should be cleaned using a detergent or soap and water prior to disinfection.
    • For disinfection, diluted household bleach solutions, alcohol solutions with at least 70% alcohol, and most common EPA-registered household disinfectants should be effective.
    • Diluted household bleach solutions may also be used if appropriate for the surface. Check to ensure the product is not past its expiration date. Unexpired household bleach will be effective against coronaviruses when properly diluted. Follow manufacturer’s instructions for application and proper ventilation. Never mix household bleach with ammonia or any other cleanser. Leave solution on the surface for at least 1 minute.
    • To make a bleach solution, mix: 
      • 5 tablespoons (1/3rd cup) bleach per gallon of water, OR
      • 4 teaspoons bleach per quart of water
      • Verify that the bleach solution will not discolor the product prior to use.
    • For more information on cleaning and disinfecting (including information discussing differences between hard and soft surfaces) visit the CDC website.
  • Wash laundry thoroughly. 
    • If laundry is soiled, wear disposable gloves and keep the soiled items away from your body while laundering. If possible, launder items using the warmest appropriate water setting for the items and dry items completely. Wash your hands immediately after removing gloves.
  • Avoid having any unnecessary visitors.
  • For any additional questions about their care, contact their healthcare provider.

  • Only one person from a family should go shopping for household items (groceries, medicines, etc.) as needed. Minimize outings by planning your shopping trips so trips can be infrequent.  Every additional person in a store increases the odds of coronavirus spread.
  • Ask your healthcare provider and insurance carrier for approval of a 3 month supply of prescription medications for chronic illness, such as diabetes, heart conditions, cancer etc.
*Note: Older adults and people of any age with certain serious underlying medical conditions like lung disease, heart disease, or diabetes are at higher risk for developing more serious complications from COVID-19 illness and should seek care as soon as symptoms start.

For more information on limiting the spread of the COVID-19 virus within a home, visit the CDC website

Mar 27

Summit County Launches Online Symptom Tracker

Posted on March 27, 2020 at 5:24 PM by Julie Sutor

Summit County has launched an interactive, online symptom tracker to help provide a more complete picture of the spread of illness in our community.

Summit County has confirmed community spread of COVID-19. But due to a national shortage of test kits, local health care providers are not able to offer comprehensive testing of the community – they are only testing health care workers, first responders and people who have serious illness.

The County is asking all Summit County residents who have experienced symptoms of illness since March 1, 2020, to report those symptoms in the Symptom Tracker. Residents' responses will help County and state officials dedicate resources to Summit County to ensure our needs are being met. All personally identifiable information is protected and will not be shared, sold or used to contact respondents.

On the Symptom Dashboard, community members can view anonymous aggregated data from all respondents and sort the data by ZIP code. Data displayed on the Symptom Dashboard includes responses by age group, responses by ZIP code, a symptom onset timeline and symptoms by ZIP code. Symptoms include cough, fever, sore throat, headache, muscle aches and shortness of breath.

Any resident of Summit County who has had any symptoms of illness since March 1, 2020, is strongly encouraged to report them anonymously on the Symptom Tracker. 
Summit County residents should complete the online symptom reporting form in the tracker for each person in their household who is exhibiting symptoms or has exhibited any symptoms dating back to March 1.

The form should be completed once for each separate illness. Take, for example, a person who was sick with nausea, vomiting and fever on March 1, and then sick with fever, cough and sore throat on March 20. On March 10, her daughter was sick with fever and cough. She would complete the form three times, once for each illness.