Maria Godoy

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The vast majority of the country is under lockdown right now. But stay-at-home orders come with a few exceptions — like grocery shopping.

Many of us are still venturing out to stock up on food and toiletries. But what's the safest way to shop during this pandemic? And what should you do once you've brought your haul home?

We asked infectious disease, virology and food safety experts to share their tips about safe grocery shopping — and what you can stop worrying about.

Know the dangers — focus on the people, not the food

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MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

Misty Donaldson-Urriola and Edgar Urriola of Raytown, Mo., are recently divorced. But they have remained close friends as they raise their three sons together.

They generally see each other every day.

That constant contact and proximity – an aspect of family life – is being put to the test by a disease that thrives when people are close together.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Updated at 4:28 p.m. ET

Three weeks ago, Washington, D.C., resident Rebecca Read Medrano started feeling unwell. She had a dry cough, fatigue, nausea and terrible stomach pains that had her bending over.

There was one more symptom, and it was a bit odd. Medrano had largely lost her sense of taste. "My cousin was cooking, and everything he made tasted weird," she recalls.

People age 50 and older are around 2-and-a-half times more likely to progress to a severe case of COVID-19. That's according to a new study that quantifies the risk factors that increase the odds that people infected with the coronavirus will develop a severe case of the disease.

This is part of a series looking at pressing coronavirus questions of the week. We'd like to hear what you're curious about. Email us at goatsandsoda@npr.org with the subject line: "Weekly Coronavirus Questions."

The global spread of COVID-19 cases continues, with cases around the world and increasingly strict measures to control its spread. Authorities in the U.S. and other countries have banned or discouraged large gatherings and are urging social distancing and frequent hand-washing.

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AILSA CHANG, HOST:

Updated March 19 at 12:08 p.m. ET

Over the past few days, social media has lit up with reports, picked up by some media outlets, that taking drugs like ibuprofen to ease COVID-19 symptoms could actually worsen the progress of the illness.

But most infectious disease experts say there's no good scientific evidence at this point to support that claim.

A federal judge has issued an injunction blocking the Trump administration from adopting a rule change that would force nearly 700,000 Americans off food stamps, officially known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP. The rule change was set to take effect April 1.

In a ruling issued Friday evening in Washington, D.C., U.S. District Court Judge Beryl Howell called the rule change capricious, arbitrary and likely unlawful.

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RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Before she was the interim minister at the Central Christian Church of Austin, Janet Maykus was a chaplain in health care settings, a job that required training in infectious disease control. So when she heard reports of the coronavirus spreading in some U.S. communities, she knew it was time to overhaul religious practices at her church.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is telling Americans that they should be prepared for the possibility of a COVID-19 outbreak in their community.

But what does preparedness look like in practice? The short answer: Don't panic — but do prepare.

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AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Updated on March 17 at 6:43 p.m. ET:

Thousands of people have now died from COVID-19 — the name for the disease caused by the coronavirus first identified in Wuhan, China.

According to the World Health Organization, the disease is relatively mild in about 80% of cases.

What does mild mean?

And how does this disease turn fatal?

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DAVID FOLKENFLIK, HOST:

As the coronavirus continues to spread, officials in China are urging citizens to wear masks in public to stop the spread of the virus — and cities in China as well as other parts of Asia are reportedly running out of face masks.

But can a mask really keep you from catching the virus?

To answer that, it helps to clarify which kinds of masks we're talking about.

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ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

As the Wuhan coronavirus spreads, cities in China and other parts of Asia are reportedly running out of face masks. NPR's Maria Godoy looked into whether a mask can protect you from the virus.

Updated at 3:32 p.m. ET

Health officials in two California counties have reported over the weekend two new cases of Wuhan coronavirus in the state, bringing the total number of cases in the U.S. to four.

The Orange County Health Care Agency reported Saturday that a man in his 50s tested positive for the infectious disease and is currently being treated in isolation at a local hospital.

For many people, a package of applesauce is simply a convenient lunchbox staple or a snack you turn to when you're feeling sick or can't keep much else down. But when Tunde Wey looks at applesauce, he sees a tool for social justice.

Call it a tale of science and derring-do. An international team of researchers has spent six years fanning across the globe, gathering thousands of samples of wild relatives of crops. Their goal: to preserve genetic diversity that could help key crops survive in the face of climate change. At times, the work put these scientists in some pretty extreme situations.

What did a meal taste like nearly 4,000 years ago in ancient Babylonia? Pretty good, according to a team of international scholars who have deciphered and are re-creating what are considered to be the world's oldest-known culinary recipes.

The recipes were inscribed on ancient Babylonian tablets that researchers have known about since early in the 20th century but that were not properly translated until the end of the century.

When Elle Simone Scott was a young girl, her family relied on food stamps and her school's free lunch program to get by.

"At several points in my life, receiving free lunch when I needed it the most, it was so beneficial for me," she says. "You know, it was sometimes the most complete meal that I and some of my friends would have in a day."

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