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With entertainment options having ground to a halt worldwide, folks may not be reaching for their cash as frequently in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.

But if you are paying for groceries or the delivery person with cash, should you be worried?

No more than usual, said Awais Vaid, deputy administrator and epidemiologist at the Champaign-Urbana Public Health District.

“There is no additional risk than at any other time because there are so many infectious diseases that are spread by dirty hands,” he said.

While that may not sound comforting, the point is that people should always wash their hands before touching their face or mouth, he said.

“We have received a lot of calls about this: handling money, going grocery shopping, touching fruits and vegetables. There are so many other diseases that are spread by bare-hand contact. As long as you wash your fruits and vegetables well and wash your hands with soap and water,” you should be fine, he said.

“That’s what people forget,” Vaid said of the double-layered process.

Some local businesses have posted signs saying they won’t accept cash and will deal only in credit or debit cards, to avoid their employees having to handle money. That’s also safer for customers, as long as they wash their hands after pushing a lot of “accept” buttons or signing their names with a stylus.

At Old Orchard Bowling Lanes in Savoy, Rhonda Lutz, wife of the owner, said “all of our staff and I feel like our skin is going to fall off from washing our hands so much. It’s not that we didn’t do that before, but now we are just super cautious every time.”

The popular bowling alley snack bar, usually packed with eat-in diners, is doing carry-out business at its drive-up window, which has long been open.

On Thursday, they added delivery to Savoy south of Curtis Road, Tolono and Philo for a few extra bucks. And for all diners, they are requesting credit only.

“I don’t want them to have to worry about it and get somewhere where somebody can’t pay,” she said of her drivers.

Additionally, the decision to ask for a credit-card number when folks phone in orders is intended to keep employees and customers alike safe. Those picking up are still asked to sign their receipt, but she said it’s also their prerogative not to.

“I am definitely hoping people will be sensible,” she said of whatever method they choose to get their prepared food.

Experts also recommend that those buying food wash their hands when they get home, then remove the food from it packaging, toss the container and put the food on a clean plate.

At Schnucks stores, spokesman Paul Simon said all checkers have hand sanitizer at each lane and are encouraged to use it often. The same applies for office managers who have to count large amounts of cash.

The Champaign-Urbana Mass Transit District on Tuesday eliminated fares for bus riders so that neither riders nor drivers have to handle cash.

“We did not receive direction from a higher authority,” said Amy Snyder, chief of staff. “This is a trend we were seeing with other transit systems in several states farther advanced in the outbreak who were taking measures like this.”

Snyder said MTD officials “felt like it was the responsible thing to do,” both in terms of limiting human contact and ensuring that those people who need public transportation for work or the doctor had access.

Reporter

Mary Schenk is a reporter covering police, courts and breaking news at The News-Gazette. Her email is mschenk@news-gazette.com, and you can follow her on Twitter (@schenk).

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