Coronavirus pushes states to delay plastic bag bans as NH governor targets reusable bags

2011 study found that reusable shopping bags are 'seldom if ever washed'

As the nation attempts to curb the spread of the coronavirus, one governor is taking aim at a new target: reusable bags.

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On Saturday, New Hampshire Gov. Christopher Sununu issued an order "directing all grocers and retail stores in the state to temporarily transition to only use new paper or plastic grocery bags provided by stores as soon as feasibly possible."

He also called on shoppers in his state to leave their reusable bags at home.

"Our grocery store works are on the front lines of #COVID19, working around the clock to keep families fed," Sununu tweeted. "With identified community transmission, it is important that shoppers keep their reusable bags at home, given the potential risk to baggers grocers, and customers," he added.

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A 2011 study published by researchers at the University of Arizona and Loma Linda University found that reusable shopping bags are often used for multiple purposes, transported and set down in many different places, and "seldom if ever washed."

Researchers discovered "large numbers of bacteria were found in almost all bags and coliform bacteria in half," along with a "wide range of enteric bacteria, including several opportunistic pathogens."

As of Saturday morning, New Hampshire had 65 confirmed cases of coronavirus.

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New Hampshire isn't the only state that took action this week, as at least two states that previously said they would institute a ban on plastic bags now are saying they would postpone them.

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New York announced this week that they would not enforce a controversial plastic bag ban until May 15 after the state's Department of Conservation posted on its website that it would postpone the enforcement of the ban from April 1 as the agency deals with a lawsuit that is delayed due to the coronavirus crisis.

Maine lawmakers also voted this week to delay the implementation of the state's planned ban on single-use plastic bags until Jan. 15, 2021.

"These emergency measures will support the state's response to the coronavirus and mitigate its spread in Maine," said Maine Gov. Janet Mills.

The ban had been scheduled to take effect April 22.

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, lawmakers have also imposed plastic bag prohibitions in six other states including California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Oregon and Vermont.

WEGMANS PULLS PLUG ON PLASTIC BAGS IN THIS STATE

The call for an end to reusable bags comes as grocery store employees face an increased risk of infection to the coronavirus, which can linger on surfaces.

(AP Photo/Kevin Hagen)

One study, published last week in the New England Journal of Medicine, suggests the virus can live up to four hours on copper, up to a day on cardboard, and up to three days on plastic and stainless steel. The coronavirus can also live in the air for up to three hours, the study authors found.

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While the CDC says it may be possible that a person can get the virus through contact with contaminated surfaces or objects, the virus mainly spreads from person to person.