Grocery store chains are taking precautionary measures amid the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. COVID-19 is virus that is transmitted through person-to-person contact, specifically when respiratory droplets from coughs and sneezes of infected people make contact with the mucous membranes of other people. For example, if a sick person coughs or sneezes and someone breathes in those airborne droplets. Or, if a sick person coughs into their hand and shakes hands with a healthy person who then touches his or her eyes, nose or mouth.

Although food-related cases have not yet been reported, it’s also possible that a sick food worker could sneeze on or cough on food that is ready to eat and spread illness. That’s why Costco announced that it would be suspending free samples at its stores for foreseeable future and Trader Joe’s had instructed its employees to plate and serve samples to each customer rather than setting out plated samples and allowing customers to help themselves.

Meanwhile Kroger, Publix and H-E-B have all placed limits on the number of soaps and hand sanitizers each customer is allowed to purchase so that more people will have the opportunity to obtain needed supplies.

Washing your hands by vigorously rubbing them with soap and rinsing under running water is one of the best ways to limit the transmission of illness. If soap and running water are not available, hand sanitizer that has 60 percent alcohol content can be used. It is also important to avoid touching your face and to cough into your elbow.

Symptoms of a coronavirus infection usually develop between two to 14 days after exposure and include cough, fever and shortness of breath. People who are at the highest risk are those over 50, those with underlying health conditions and those with compromised immune systems. Those over 80 are at the highest risk of death.