For the past nine months COVID-19 has changed the way we work, live and play. Most of our shopping habits have changed too. As we head into the holiday shopping season, it is more important than ever to practice safe shopping. Given that social distancing is key to slowing the spread of COVID-19, the traditional holiday shopping experience of crowded stores is no longer just annoying, it’s counter effective to slowing the spread.

You can’t eliminate your risk entirely, but you can significantly lower it. If you follow a few simple safety measures, you’re more likely to stay safe as you pick up holiday gifts for your loved ones.

Shop online (locally) as much as possible

Online shopping was already a convenient way to get your holiday gifts before the COVID-19 pandemic, and it’s an even better option now. You can buy what you want from home, without needing to come into contact with a store full of people.

Try www.livelocalnw.com, a Spokane-based Etsy-style shop that features over 600 regional businesses and artisans. Or visit your favorite local website and see if they have added online shopping options. Don’t know where to start? Visit our online directory at www.downtownspokane.org/directory.

When you receive online orders, try to avoid contact with the delivery person. Make sure you get rid of outer packaging immediately and wash your hands thoroughly after handling packages. Packages present a very low risk of transmitting coronavirus, but still remember to be careful.

Get your in-store shopping done early

The one thing that probably won’t change this holiday season is there will be more shoppers the closer that it gets to Christmas. With store limits on the number of shoppers inside, you may not see the packed aisles of previous years. But there could be plenty of people and a long wait before you can even get in the doors.

If you need to do any in-store gift shopping, it’s best to get it done as soon as possible. The earlier you go, the less likely you are to encounter crowds.

It also helps to shop at off hours, if you can. You could find stores are much emptier if you go right after they open, before they close, or on weekdays during working hours.

Use contactless credit cards

Another way to protect yourself when shopping for gifts in stores is to pay with a contactless credit card. You can hold this type of card above the payment terminal or tap it on the payment terminal, assuming it accepts contactless payments. This allows you to avoid physical contact with cashiers or payment terminals that go through hundreds of transactions per day.

To find out if you have a contactless credit card, look for a wave symbol or ask your card issuer. If not, see if it’s possible to get a contactless version of one of your current credit cards or apply for one of the top contactless credit cards.

Follow the CDC’s recommendations

The CDC has published detailed advice on running essential errands during the pandemic. Although holiday shopping may not be essential, much of the same advice applies. Here are the most important recommendations to follow for your holiday shopping:

  • Wear a mask.
  • Maintain social distancing of at least six feet from others when possible.
  • Carry hand sanitizer and use it after leaving the store.
  • Wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds after you get home.

Look for businesses that offer safety precautions for their customers and staff, including the following:

  • Enforces face mask policy
  • Offers face masks if you forget one
  • Hand sanitizer at entrance
  • Touch-free payment options
  • Encourages social distancing
  • Limits the number of customers in the store at one time

it’s important that everyone does their part to help reduce community spread of COVID-19. When you follow safety precautions, you are not only limiting the spread of COVID-19, you are helping our local business community open up fully sooner.

Stay home and refrain from shopping or being around others if you are not feeling well, if you have been exposed to someone who has tested positive for COVID-19, or if you have a fever.

All of us at downtown Spokane appreciate your support, big or small, this holiday season. We will make it through 2020 and look forward to future holiday seasons when we can safely be together again.

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