COVID-19: Protecting grocery workers is a top priority. Plastic bags help that effort

As New York adopts a near-100% workforce shutdown in an effort to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus, a handful of businesses have been deemed essential and allowed to continue operating — including grocery stores.

This makes sense, as people need to eat and maintaining access to fresh food, especially fruits and vegetables, helps keep the population healthy during this unprecedented public health crisis.

But it also puts grocery workers on the front lines of the fight against this virus, turning jobs never before seen as particularly dangerous into high-risk undertakings. These employees do not have the option of working from home, and the more people crowd into stores, desperate to stock up on everything from toilet paper to milk, the more grocery workers are in danger of being infected.

It is imperative that employers and regulators do everything possible to protect these individuals while they are providing the crucial service of keeping the public fed. That includes banning reusable bags, which have been demonstrated to harbor bacteria, contagions and viruses — particularly if people do not wash them between uses, as research has shown that all but 3% of shoppers do not.

Read the full guest column on the Journal News.