Can I get coronavirus from a package? What an expert – and Amazon – recommend doing

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WREG) — Delivery services like Amazon have been crucial for many people as they shelter in place during the coronavirus pandemic.

But now case are cropping up at Amazon warehouses across the country. In one of the latest cases, an Amazon worker in Memphis tested positive for coronavirus. The employee was last on site March 21 and those who came in contact are in quarantine, the company said.

So what steps is Amazon taking? What steps can you take to keep your family healthy? And can the virus be spread through package deliveries?

On Monday, Jay Carney, Amazon's senior vice president of global corporate affairs, gave CNN's Jake Tapper two specific recommendations for customers.

The first was to wipe down packages with disinfectant. The second, which may be more difficult depending on how perishable or badly-needed the items are, is to leave the packages outside for longer than the virus can survive. Experts believe the virus can only live on cardboard for 24 hours, so you can leave your package outside for a day before bringing it into your home.

On its website, Amazon defers to the World Health Organization for questions about the safety of receiving deliveries.

Infectious disease expert Dr. Stephen Threlkeld said it’s hard to know whether transmission through deliveries is likely. A person would have to put enough of the virus on a piece of cardboard to last days until it’s delivered.

Experts also recommend disposing of the packaging immediately after opening, and then washing your hands with soap.

“We don’t know at all if that’s necessary but it certainly should be sufficient,” Threlkeld said.

Amazon claims it’s increased the frequency and intensity of cleaning and adjusted practices to ensure social distancing, like staggering shifts and break times. The company also says it is giving all of its workers in quarantine two weeks’ pay. 

As for FedEx and UPS, they say they’ve increased their cleaning and stopped in-person signatures for most deliveries.

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