Can I catch coronavirus from my dog? Is it safe to get a package? Your COVID-19 questions, answered

As cases continue to rise in Chicago, and a shelter-at-home order goes in place statewide, many people are wondering what they can — and can’t — touch. Here’s our guide. (And, yes, it’s safe to get your newspaper.)

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The World Health Organization said there has only been once instance of a dog being infected by the coronavirus to date, and it was in Hong Kong.

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As coronavirus cases continue to rise, and everyone does their best to stay safe (and keep others safe), you might have questions about how the virus is transmitted, and what you can and can’t touch.

If you’ve been wondering about playing with pets, receiving a package from Amazon or handling your daily newspaper, or whether you should be disinfecting your fruits and vegetables from the grocery store, you’re not alone.

Here are those questions and more, answered by experts:

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Coronavirus Newsletter

Everything you need to know about the novel coronavirus COVID-19, with a focus on its impact on Chicago and Illinois.

Can I catch coronavirus from my pet?

There is no evidence that a dog, cat or any other pets can transmit the coronavirus to humans, according to the World Health Organization. WHO said there has only been one instance of a dog being infected to date, and it was in Hong Kong.

Is it safe to receive a package? What about checking my mail?

Yes. According to the World Health Organization, the likelihood of an infected person contaminating commercial goods is low, and the risk of catching the virus from a package or letter that has been traveling and exposed to different temperatures is also low.

If you’re a subscriber, that includes your copy of the Chicago Sun-Times.

Should I be disinfecting my groceries?

Yes. Produce is placed on displays by hand, often by people who are not wearing gloves. By the time you get to the apples, they’ve probably been touched by at least 10 people. Jeff Nelken, a food safety expert, told the New York Times that once you get home, you should be cleaning your produce with a very diluted bleach solution (one teaspoon of bleach per gallon of water). If that freaks you out, you can also use a disinfecting wipe or soap and water, he said.

Pantry items are less likely to be contaminated, but Nelken said it’s still worth wiping down cans and cardboard boxes.

And your reusable grocery bags? They need to be wiped down or washed, too.

How long can I wear a mask before throwing it out? How do I dispose of it?

Masks don’t need to be worn by everyone. Only health workers, care takers, and people with respiratory symptoms, like a fever and cough, should be wearing masks.

With that said, masks are only good for one use. Take it off via the elastic loops behind your ears, while keeping it away from your face and nose and avoid touching potentially contaminated surfaces of the mask. Throw it out immediately in a closed trash bin and wash your hands directly after.

More information

We also have answers to some more general questions, like how do you know if you have the coronavirus and what should you do if you think you’re infected? Dr. Robert Murphy, the director of the Institute for Global Health at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine, visited the Sun-Times newsroom to answer some reader submitted questions in real time. Watch:

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