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Coronavirus has prompted Maryland to close restaurants. Here’s how to safely order delivery, carryout

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan ordered all bars and restaurants in the state to close at 5 p.m. Monday as part of social distancing measures intended to reduce the spread of the novel coronavirus. But carryout and delivery service will continue, and many area eateries are offering specials to entice guests.

The hospitality industry is expected to take a huge hit from the decline in business, says Morgan Katz, assistant professor of infectious disease at Johns Hopkins University. Many are getting creative with delivery or curbside pickup specials designed to feed guests and their families while minimizing contact.

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Food delivery is a great option for people who can’t or don’t want to cook, but who still want to comply with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendations for social distancing, says Jason Farley, professor at the Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing and nurse practitioner in the division of infectious diseases. It limits a diner’s exposure to one person — their delivery driver -— while helping to keep local businesses afloat during a difficult time.

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Furthermore, health experts aren’t seeing any cases of foodborne transmission of the coronavirus right now, Farley says. That means that you’re unlikely to get the virus from food you consume — unless you’re sharing it with someone who is infected. “In terms of a social distancing approach, that is a really good option for people.”

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Here are some guidelines to maximize safety while ordering delivery:

Pay with plastic

When ordering delivery, pay using credit card of through an app like Uber Eats, DoorDash or GrubHub to limit contact with cash. The CDC recommends limiting use of cash.

Don’t touch

Importantly, many interactions that people have with their delivery person will happen outdoors, which can help reduce the risk of transmission. “Ultimately, interactions outdoors in the sun, in the wind... would be a lower risk than in a closed environment,” Farley said.

Customers who use apps like Uber Eats can further minimize contact with delivery person by requesting food to be left on their front step or outside their homes.

Wash your hands

Wash your hands after opening the package and removing food from containers, Farley says, echoing recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control. “If you’ve touched a product that was contaminated, it’s a very low probability of transmission, but we just want to practice really good hand hygiene,” he said. Scrub hands for 20 seconds with soap and water.

Disinfect

Clean and disinfect surfaces such as doorknobs, tables and handrails regularly, as per CDC guidelines, and keep windows open when possible to increase ventilation at home. This is especially important if you’re at home with someone who’s symptomatic.

Prepare for a long haul

Right now, the CDC guidelines suggest that social distancing measures will need to be in place for the next eight weeks. Farley calls that the minimum amount of time needed to “flatten the curve,” or to drastically reduce the number of transmissions of the virus. “We need to get ahead of this dramatically to bend the curve and stop the spigot,” he said.

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