Now That You Got Your Boxes Delivered From Amazon – Should You Touch Them?

You got that box from Amazon, so satisfied that you didn't have to schlep to the store and mingle with the germy people there who might have COVID-19. Now what the heck do you do with the box? Should you touch it? Do you need to gown-up to handle it? How long does coronavirus live on cardboard, anyway?

Yesterday when the Amazon delivery person set the box on my porch I thought wait, I keep hearing that the COVID-19 virus can last on surfaces for hours. So I donned my purple nitrile gloves, which I keep around the house and use for everything, brought my spray bottle with a high concentration of bleach to water, and commenced processing my boxes.

I decontaminated the boxes with my bleach concoction, sprayed the contents, cleaned my gloves with the hand sanitizer I keep outside to put on before I walk into my house (I know, I know), and put the unwrapped objects inside, setting them inside on a hard surface by the door. Next, I crushed the boxes and, after putting the cardboard into my recycle container, used my spray concoction to decontaminated my shoes that I used to crush the boxes.

It turns out I wasn't the only one wondering about this. It felt good to know I'm not being ridiculous. It's only ridiculous if you're not doing it.

The warehouse at the firm where my husband works does pretty much the same thing with each shipment that comes in. There is no human contact whatsoever between delivery person and shipping and receiving. Each box is left by the door by the delivery person and is decontaminated by the masked warehouse guys who gown-up to receive the boxes. When the boxes are unloaded, the pre-packaged items – parts for essential infrastructure – are de-contaminated. Hours of man-hours are spent doing this in who knows how many companies and homes in the United States.

We're turning into HazMat Nation out of necessity.

According to the CDC, the SARS virus, of which COVID-19 is one, is "detectable in aerosols for up to three hours, up to four hours on copper, up to 24 hours on cardboard and up to two to three days on plastic and stainless steel."

The Economist put it in an easy-to-read graph here.

Most of the COVID-19 cases are believed to be from person-to-person transmission – aerosolized – but if the cooties stay on surfaces for hours it's prudent to wipe it all down, though the chances of transferring the germs are low.

WLSL reports, "companies like UPS, Fed-Ex, the United States Postal Service and Amazon tell NBC News they’re taking precautions to sanitize and protect their workers and the public from spreading the disease. Some have even stopped requiring in-person signatures for deliveries."

And what about take-out food containers? Can you trust those with your food in them? It turns out there's a protocol for treating those containers as well. From WLSL:

  • Use your own dishes. Toss out take-out containers.
  • Reheat your food, even if it’s already warm.
  • Wipe down the surfaces your grocery bags and delivery boxes touched.
  • Wash your hands.

Good grief, I thought ordering out was supposed to be easier. Alas, we're all trying to keep the local restaurants in business during this time and that comes with sacrifices.

WLSL also recommends that you leave your cardboard boxes on your doorstep for 24 hours before bringing them inside. In my neighborhood that would make any of my contaminated boxes someone else's problem, like the thief who takes them.