Coronavirus: How to stay safe when going out in public for essentials such as food and gas

Amid the coronavirus emergency, people are being urged to limit the time they spend in public. But there are essential items that consumers may have to leave their house for: food, gas, cash.

Here are some tips to help keep you safe when you have to go out.

Pumping gas? You'll have to touch the pump, nozzle and maybe the hose. Getting cash out of the ATM? You're going to have to push keypad buttons or touch a screen. Going food shopping? You'll need to push a shopping cart or carry a basket.

Every one of those surfaces could potentially expose you to coronavirus.

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"While this coronavirus appears to spread primarily when people cough or sneeze and respiratory droplets land on those nearby, research suggests that it may survive on surfaces made from a variety of materials, for hours or even days," said Sana Mujahid, Ph.D., a Consumer Reports manager of food safety research.

Avoid touching surfaces with your fingertips. Instead, use a pen or your knuckle to press an elevator button or an ATM keypad or a touchscreen.

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"If you can't avoid touching a high-touch surface, you can also carry tissues with you," Mujahid said, "and use them to grab a doorknob or handrail. Just be sure to throw them away right after using. Another option is to use your sleeve to cover your hand or finger."

Your smartphone may not be a public surface, but it too can harbor bacteria, viruses and other germs. Clean it often with a 70-percent isopropyl alcohol wipe.

And of course, even after doing all of these things, wash your hands as soon as you can and avoid touching your face.

It is also recommended you power down your smartphone before cleaning it, and avoid using bleach, submerging it in cleaning agents, or allowing moisture to enter any openings.

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