As quarantine and “shelter-in-place” orders become more commonplace, Americans will be relying on delivery services more than ever before. Sure, grocery stores and pharmacies are planning to stay open, but ordering supplies online is still the best way to avoid exposure to COVID-19 if you are following recommendations to stay home.

But a new study released by the National Institutes of Health shows online orders aren’t 100% risk-free. Is it safe to handle mail and packages? The coronavirus is capable of sticking to surfaces for up to three days, which makes disinfecting extremely important. Tap or click to see the best disinfectants you can use.

If you’re planning on ordering online from shipping services like Amazon, here’s what you need to know about handling your packages, cleaning them and making sure they’re safe enough to bring into your home.

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What’s going on?

The National Institutes of Health reports the SARS-COV2 virus that causes COVID-19 is capable of clinging to surfaces for a longer period of time than originally thought. The virus can be found in aerosol particles for up to three hours, can cling to cardboard for up to 24 hours and can stick to plastic and stainless steel for up to three days, according to the New England Journal of Medicine.

Previously, researchers assumed respiratory droplets were the primary vector of infection. But this new knowledge, as well as the fact that infected people can display no symptoms at all, shows there is so much more we can do to protect ourselves and our loved ones.

Must-read: Wash your hands frequently! It’s essential to staying healthy. Here’s a clever way to remind yourself, or your kids, to do it throughout the day.

It also presents a new set of challenges for one of the most important services we’ve come to rely on: delivery. Luckily, there are steps you can take to make sure the packages you receive are safe enough to bring indoors. Tap or click to see some of the coronavirus-killing items you can order online.

Get serious about sanitizing

If you order a package from Amazon or another shipping service, the first thing you should do is make sure the delivery person leaves it at your doorstep or in a package locker (if your community has one). This reduces face-to-face interaction and person to person spread, which is key in our widespread social distancing effort to flatten the curve of infection.

When ordering from Amazon, you can leave special delivery instructions during checkout. On either the Select a shipping address or Review your order page, choose Add delivery instructions and simply say you want your package in the mailbox, on your doorstep or some other specific location.

Once three hours have passed, you’ve reduced the chance of contacting any aerosol particles from the delivery person.

Second, you’ll want to assess what kind of package you’re dealing with. If you receive a cardboard box, you should handle it with gloves (if possible) and place it in a safe, secure outdoor location — like a backyard, patio or balcony — for 24 hours. If it’s a plastic package or bag, you’ll want to leave it in your secure location for up to three days.

When you’re done, wash up. Hand sanitizer is fine if you’re on the go, but you really need to wash thoroughly with soap and water.

No time to waste

Not everyone can afford to wait a few days for supplies. Some items, like grocery deliveries, must be opened right away. This is where you need to proceed with caution. If you treat your package carefully, you can open it safely. Here’s how:

For perishable items, put them directly in your refrigerator and avoid tables and countertops. Use gloves to handle the bag if possible and avoid hugging it close to your body when moving it. Any outer packaging should be removed and thrown directly into the trash before storing the item in your fridge.

Once you’re finished, avoid touching or interacting with family members and wash your hands thoroughly with soap and warm-to-hot water for 20 seconds. This will kill any traces of virus left on your hands. Tap or click to see some of the other things you should sanitize aside from your hands.

These steps may seem extreme, but following these guidelines is a surefire way to stifle infection. We need to be vigilant in preventing the transmission of the virus, and the more people who put the effort into doing so, the safer the general population will be from disease.

Just like during the World wars, this is a time where every American has a duty to help themselves and their neighbors. Only this time, we’re not filing into factories and laboring to make shells. All we need to do is stay clean and remain indoors. That’s not too difficult, right?

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