PHOTO: iStock

As retailers like clothing and furniture stores begin to reopen, and as grocery shopping starts to return to its pre-covid-19 pace, shoppers may be concerned about staying safe. If you go out where other people are, the absolute best thing you can do for your health — and for the health and safety of others — is to wear a mask or other face covering when in close proximity to others. And when possible, stay at least 6 feet away.

Covid-19 is mainly transmitted through droplets, so if an infected person coughs, sneezes or speaks and you breathe in those droplets, you could become infected too. According to the World Health Organization, “These droplets are relatively heavy, do not travel far and quickly sink to the ground. These droplets can land on objects and surfaces around the person such as tables, doorknobs and handrails. People can become infected by touching these objects or surfaces, then touching their eyes, nose or mouth.”

How to stay safe in the stores

John Leyenberger, a National Safety Board-certified professional with over 23 years of experience in retail safety and compliance, says that the most critical measures to help protect yourself, as well as retail workers, include wearing a mask and maintaining distance from others while shopping and waiting in checkout lines. He also recommends using hand sanitizer before entering and after leaving a store — and points out that you should use it before removing your mask.

PHOTO: iStock

Leyenberger also offers a plea to consider the health and safety of others, including and especially retail workers, while shopping. “Retail workers are trying to do the best they can to serve customers while providing a safe shopping experience,” he says. “Patience and understanding will go a long way.”

Don Schaffner, a professor of food microbiology at Rutgers School of Environmental and Biological Sciences and host of the podcasts “Food Safety Talk” and “Risky or Not?,” echoes Leyenberger’s advice, and points out a common behavior that people should avoid. “I’ve heard that some people wear a mask only to get past the check-in person at the front door, and then take it off once inside the store,” he says. “This exposes others to risk and is not appropriate.”

When you get home

The first thing — the very first thing — is to wash your hands using soap and water, and to do so again after handling the purchases you made. Prior to wearing, all clothing, sheets, towels, face masks, etc. should be washed and dried using the hottest temperature settings the garment can tolerate; check the care tag for that information.

If you’ve purchased upholstered furniture or other non-launderable fabric goods, like heavy wool coats, a steamer or steam iron can serve to kill germs and bacteria through the use of moist heat.

Rowenta Eco-Intelligence Energy Saving Steam Iron ($109.95, originally $119;

Rowenta Eco-Intelligence Energy Saving Steam Iron
Rowenta Eco-Intelligence Energy Saving Steam Iron

PurSteam Garment Steamer ($64.97, originally $82.99;