C19 won’t be transmitted via books, right?
March 21, 2020 9:08 PM   Subscribe

Suppose I have a couple of friends and I want to buy each one of them a couple of books as a gift for them (via Amazon) and leave a set of books on each doorstep — in the Time of Coronavirus. Would a reasonable person (who is asymptomatic) do this, or would a reasonable person view this as a little risky? Surely the former, right?
posted by PaulVario to Human Relations (14 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
In my area it's seen as perfectly reasonable to drop food off outside for people who are isolating. But this is by driving to someone's house in a car, calling after getting back in the car so they know to get the food. If you have to take public transit and go through apartment hallways that's a completely different situation.

Of course, the person receiving the items should follow good sanitary precautions. With books it should be no problem for the recipient to set them aside for a few days.
posted by yohko at 9:19 PM on March 21 [1 favorite]

How Long Will Coronavirus Live on Surfaces or in the Air Around You? (NYT, Mar. 17, 2020)
The new study, published Tuesday in The New England Journal of Medicine, also suggests that the virus disintegrates over the course of a day on cardboard, lessening the worry among consumers that deliveries will spread the virus during this period of staying and working from home. [...] On cardboard, it survives up to 24 hours, which suggests packages that arrive in the mail should have only low levels of the virus — unless the delivery person has coughed or sneezed on it or has handled it with contaminated hands.

[...] “Everything at the grocery store and restaurant takeout containers and bags could in theory have infectious virus on them,” said Dr. Linsey Marr, who was not a member of the research team but is an expert in the transmission of viruses by aerosol at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg. “We could go crazy discussing these ‘what ifs’ because everyone is a potential source, so we have to focus on the biggest risks.” If people are concerned about the risk, they could wipe down packages with disinfectant wipes and wash their hands, she said.
posted by katra at 9:42 PM on March 21 [4 favorites]

Would a reasonable person (who is asymptomatic) do this

It seems important to also keep in mind that infected people without symptoms might be driving the spread of coronavirus more than we realized (CNN / MSN)
New studies in several countries and a large coronavirus outbreak in Massachusetts bring into question reassuring assertions by US officials about the way the novel virus spreads. [...] it appears that a Massachusetts coronavirus cluster with at least 82 cases was started by people who were not yet showing symptoms, and more than half a dozen studies have shown that people without symptoms are causing substantial amounts of infection.
Also: Coronavirus: many infections spread by people yet to show symptoms – scientists (Guardian)
An analysis of infections in Singapore and Tianjin in China revealed that two-thirds and three-quarters of people respectively appear to have caught it from others who were incubating the virus but still symptom-free.
posted by katra at 9:48 PM on March 21 [2 favorites]

The most cautious person I currently know is still feeling okay about doing this, as long as the travelling between homes is done by car or on foot. They are leaving such deliveries out on their porch for 24 hours before bringing them in, or in very bad weather, bringing in with gloves and then not touching further for 24 hours.
posted by Stacey at 3:55 AM on March 22 [1 favorite]

Thanks for asking this question, as I was reading of bookcrossing and wondering of some of this myself.
posted by childofTethys at 4:32 AM on March 22

I would do that, but I would make sure to handle the books with clean hands / gloves only. Even if you're asymptomatic, it's best to assume that you may be infected and contagious.
posted by Too-Ticky at 4:46 AM on March 22 [1 favorite]

Amazon workers are being forced to work in warehouses with people who are sick. As "seamless" as the Amazon experience appears to be, there are humans on the other end of it and their working conditions are unsafe, especially right now. I would advise limiting any purchases to life essentials at this time. Independent bookstores are likely to be treating their employees in a more humane manner than Amazon if you still want to do this.
posted by k8lin at 5:21 AM on March 22 [6 favorites]

I really like this Serious Eats article on food safety and coronavirus. Basically there's a distinct pattern of clusters of people getting sick when illnesses are spread by food packaging (think e coli outbreaks), and that hasn't happened at all with coronavirus. We're being careful with packaging because there's technically still live virus on surfaces for 1 to 3 days, but if people were getting sick that way it would show up, and it isn't. If you give someone a book and they put it somewhere for a few days and wash their hands afterward, they are being fully cautious.
posted by john hadron collider at 5:29 AM on March 22 [5 favorites]

Others have addressee the Amazon angle. I'll just add that our libraries have closed all of their book returns and are not accepting books back for three weeks. It's not just because many of them are working from home, but because of the unknown risk of transmission at this time.
posted by peanut_mcgillicuty at 6:11 AM on March 22

My take on this is there are still too many unknowns, and I come from the perspective os a critical worker who oversees hundreds of critical workers.

PLEASE DON'T DO THIS. We just don't know enough and every single time someone breaks a quarantine, they inadvertently expose everyone else.

I know this is all hard and terrible but people just need to stick with the quarantine situation until we know more.
posted by yes I said yes I will Yes at 7:59 AM on March 22

I think I'm in the minority here, but I would do this. I think it's important to balance our physical and mental health. Sending books to someone is a fairly low-risk way to stay in touch, especially if you and they take precautions like hand-washing.
posted by woodvine at 9:06 AM on March 22 [1 favorite]

I'd do it, because I think it's a balanced risk. You could put the books in a bag where they could wait for 72 hours before being opened?
posted by heathrowga at 10:07 AM on March 22 [1 favorite]

So you're buying books, having them sent to you via Amazon, and you want to drop them off on someone's doorstep?

Is it remotely possible for you to just give them a gift certificate for Amazon e-books (or B&N e-books, or just anywhere e-book) to use instead?
posted by jenfullmoon at 3:49 PM on March 22 [2 favorites]

This can be done in a way that minimizes risk, yes.

But ebooks exist. You may love the tactile experience of reading a book (many of us do), but right now, you can share a book without incurring any physical risk of transmission whatsoever -- and also without burdening your friends with worrying over how/whether they need to quarantine a physical book.
posted by katieinshoes at 8:55 AM on March 23

« Older How to set up cable internet with self-install?   |   Number of confirmed Coronavirus cases worldwide by... Newer »

You are not logged in, either login or create an account to post comments