Cooking and ordering take-out in the midst of COVID-19

Tips on keeping family members safe and healthy when cooking meals and ordering take-out

If you’re sick with the coronavirus/COVID-19 and are well enough to get around, you may be wondering whether you can cook for others.

You can, but extra attention to hygiene and keeping your distance is required.

Bethany F. Hodge, M.D., MPH, pediatric hospitalist with Norton Children’s Inpatient Care, affiliated with the UofL School of Medicine, said the real threat is not in the food or packaging itself, but rather close contact with sick individuals.

“All household members are considered ‘close contacts’ and risk transmitting the virus person-to-person, so the greatest risk is just being in the same house, breathing the same air, using the same bathroom, etc. If possible, staying away from family by keeping yourself to one room and using a separate bathroom is recommended for sick individuals,” Dr. Hodge said.

It’s OK to cook for others, but be extra careful

With this risk in mind, it’s more important than ever to pay careful attention to hygiene while preparing food at home.

“Start with clean hands, wash produce and cook meats thoroughly as you usually would. If you have a mask, you can wear it when cooking food or being around family members while you are ill,” Dr. Hodge said.

Consider transferring cooking duties to someone else so you can isolate yourself from others in the house. If you’re not feeling well, take care of yourself and ask for help, according to Dr. Hodge.

The bottom line is that it is ok for contagious individuals to cook for their families, but they should be extra cautious in doing so and should consider alternatives.

Takeout and delivery have low risk, but there are steps to take

Takeout and delivery options should be safe. While you still risk exposure by any in-person contact, the risk of exposure from the food and packaging is low.

To further combat the spread of COVID-19, many restaurants have implemented protective measures such as contactless deliveries, cashless transactions, leaving food at your door and increased sanitization efforts.

As you pick up food or receive deliveries, remember to maintain a safe distance from others, and always use hand sanitizer. To be safe, you may even want to use gloves during these transactions.

While the risk of exposure from surfaces is low, it can be mitigated by placing food on your own plate, throwing away the delivery container and washing your hands.

In addition to concerns in the kitchen, many people are worried about finding food to prepare. Despite the sometimes empty shelves you may notice at the grocery store, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has assured consumers that there are no nationwide shortages of food.

Maintaining a balanced, nutritious diet is important for keeping your body prepared to fight illnesses. COVID-19 presents many challenges to the ways we accomplish this, but with care and diligence we can overcome them. For more information on COVID-19 and food, visit the FDA’s FAQ page on the topic.

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