No-contact deliveries and washing your hands are the two most important things you can do.

By Gowri Chandra
March 17, 2020
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The information in this article reflects that of the publishing time above. However, as statistics and information regarding coronavirus rapidly change, some figures may be different since this story was originally posted. For the latest on COVID-19, readers are encouraged to use online resources from CDCWHO, and local public health departments, and our guide on how to eat and drink during the pandemic.

As COVID-19 continues to spread, restaurants have been mandated to close or limit operations in 13 states so far, including California, New York, Washington State, Ohio, and Illinois, with more likely to come. Delivery is the only way they’re operating, if at all.

If you can afford it right now, support these businesses and their workers. As restaurants weather the dramatic loss of business, the simple act of ordering delivery can help keep the lights on until broader government action is taken.

Credit: Robert K. Chin / Alamy Stock Photo

However, people understandably have concerns about ordering food right now—for themselves, for their families, and for the hardworking delivery drivers who are most at risk. Here’s what we know.

Does a no-contact delivery really minimize risk?

Yes. Dr. Stephen Morse, a Columbia University epidemiologist told The Atlantic this week, the greatest danger of food deliveries is probably in the interaction with you and your driver—not the food itself. An easy way to fix that is a no-contact delivery; ask your delivery person to leave the food outside for you to grab after they've left.

Are hot foods safe to order?

In a word, yes. While actual in-person contact is the most accepted mode of transmission for COVID-19, hot foods are still less likely to pose a threat, according to Dr. Roger Detels, an epidemiologist at UCLA. He tells Food & Wine that COVID-19 doesn’t like heat, and freshly cooked foods are less risky. If you have serious concerns or are living with someone who is immuno-suppressed, avoiding chilled foods like salads and desserts can’t hurt.

In addition to ordering hot food, reheating it to a robust temperature is another way to cut down on risk.

Can the actual delivery boxes, bags, and utensils carry COVID-19? 

According to Dr. Morse, technically, yes. But a much more likely way of transmission is human-human contact.

As he tells The Atlantic, “There can be transmission through contaminated inanimate objects, but we think the most important route of transmission is respiratory droplets.” In other words, being within six feet of an infected person.

In any case, wiping down delivery boxes, bags, and surfaces can’t hurt. And, of course, immediately wash your hands for 20 seconds, which is the CDC-recommended standard amount.

Are cash tips safe? 

At this point, Postmates, DoorDash, Grubhub, and UberEats all have the in-app option for no-contact deliveries, which all companies have progressively rolled out over the past few days. If you’re ordering directly from a restaurant—which is always better for the restaurant, which means they don’t have to fork over half their profit margin—leave a tip in an envelope under your doormat or with your doorman.

While cash tips are always preferred in the service industry, this might be the one time when Venmo is better—get creative and ask your driver for theirs. And obviously, if you’re ordering through an app, neither of you will have to deal with cash.

How else can I keep myself and delivery drivers safe? 

Following the standard CDC-recommended guidelines will go a long way. A no-contact delivery and washing your hands are probably the two most important things you can do in this situation. After that, practicing basic hygiene—wiping down your table, for example—is also important.

For an extensive guide on how to eat and drink during COVID-19—including grocery shop, and more—check out our guide.