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Do I Need To Change My Clothes When I Get Home From The Grocery Store?

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A woman wearing a face mask as a precaution against coronavirus walks past a restaurant in Monterey Park, California. (Frederic J. Brown/AFP via Getty Images)
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We’re asking public health officials and experts to answer your questions about the COVID-19 pandemic. Keep in mind that this information does not constitute professional medical advice. For questions regarding your own health, always consult a physician.

A listener who only identified herself as Ruth wrote:

“When I go to the store do I need to change clothes once I get home? I may be obsessing, but I often feel the need to shower and change clothes even if no one has been sick near me.”

Here’s an explanation from Dr. Robert Kim-Farley, with UCLA’s Fielding School of Public Health, and a former staffer with the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention:

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“I think the best practice would be ... when you're coming home, making sure that you're washing your hands -- and again, that's for that 20 seconds, singing ‘Happy Birthday’ twice, (that's) very important.”

By washing your hands thoroughly, you make sure that anything you may have touched is washed off and is no longer a threat. Dr. Kim-Farley assures us that clothing isn’t an issue:
“We don't feel fabrics are going to be a major source of transmission here. It really primarily is this droplet spread, coughing and having that breathed in. It's also surfaces — especially surfaces like metal or plastics — that the virus can maybe last ... up to two days on that type of a surface.”

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Support our free, independent journalism today. Donate now.Correction: Because of a transcription error, a previous version of this story misquoted one of Dr. Kim-Farley's answers. He said coronavirus can survive longer on "metals or plastics." Your plants are innocent; do not throw them away.