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A U.S Postal Service mail carrier wears gloves while delivering mail, Friday March 20, 2020, in South Wilkes-Barre, Pa.

As COVID-19 spreads across Pennsylvania, more people are wearing disposable gloves when shopping for food and other necessities.

"I see a lot of people out in public wearing gloves, which is unprecedented," said Ira Hart, manager of West End Ambulance Service.

"I've never seen that before, and I think it's great," he said.

People can acquire coronavirus through the person-to-person contact, or by touching contaminated surfaces.

Studies show the virus is detectable for up three hours in aerosols, up to four hours on copper, up to 24 hours on cardboard and up to two or three days on plastic and stainless steel, according to a study by the National Institutes of Health.

"Even if you wipe the handle of the grocery cart, you don't want to put you're bare hand on it," Hart said. "Because now you have it on your hand and if you touch your face you risk contaminating yourself."

Experts advise people to:

• Wash their hands before and after wearing disposable gloves.

• Be sure the gloves are not torn or punctured.

• When removing gloves, peel them off – making sure not to touch the outside of the glove with bare hands.

• Do not wash or reuse disposable gloves.

"You want to keep the spread of the virus down and protect you and your family," he said. 

Hot commodity

Safety concerns are driving the demand for disposable gloves. But how effective are they?

A story written by Kerry Breen and published March 10 on www.today.com suggest disposable gloves may not be effective for day-to-day use as they tear and do not prevent people from touching their face.

"They need to wash their hands and not touch their face," the story said, noting that the gloves can serve as another surface for the virus to live on. "Many people are still going to touch their face with the glove, which is actually probably worse."

Where to find disposable gloves?

"Gloves are a very difficult commodity right now even for the EMS profession," Hart said. "You can check with Home Depot or the pharmacies. It's best to call around before you drive around, because you might have to drive to five different places."

If no gloves are in stock, many retail stores sell them online.

Patrick Buchnowski is a reporter for The Tribune-Democrat. He can be reached at 532-5061. Follow him on Twitter @PatBuchnowskiTD.

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