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Backlash grows against reusable grocery bags as virus spreads

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Backlash grows against reusable grocery bags as virus spreads

Four years after becoming the state’s first municipality to ban the use of plastic bags and impose fees for acquiring others at grocery stores, Cambridge this week issued an emergency order temporarily forbidding the use of reusable bags at retail stores, reflecting a growing fear they could be spreading the coronavirus.

“While we understand how strongly the Cambridge community cares about recycling items whenever possible, reusable checkout bags that have not been sufficiently disinfected could potentially contribute to the spread of COVID-19 among staff and customers at these establishments,” Mayor Sumbul Siddiqui of Cambridge said in a statement, adding that the order also eliminates fees for bags. “This immediate action is necessary to prevent and minimize the spread of COVID-19.”

New Hampshire took similar action last week, apparently the first such statewide ban on reusable bags. Governor Chris Sununo ordered all grocery stores, supermarkets, and other retail stores to use paper or plastic.

“Our grocery store workers are on the front lines of COVID-19, working around the clock to keep New Hampshire families fed,” Sununo said. “With identified community transmission, it is important that shoppers keep their reusable bags at home, given the potential risk to baggers, grocers, and customers.”

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It’s unclear what, if any, danger the mix of popular cotton, canvas, and nylon bags actually pose. Marc Lipsitch, a professor of epidemiology at Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health and director of its Center for Communicable Disease Dynamics, doubted such measures would do much to help.

“This seems like a very small contribution to control,” he said. “Pardon the expression, but it seems like grasping at straws.”

He added: “It is a data-free […]

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