Concern over contamination at gas pump

Published: Apr. 20, 2020 at 5:44 PM EDT
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As coronavirus cases grow here in Michigan, so do the concerns that the virus spreads easily through pumping gas.

Low gas prices right now might make it more appealing to fill up more often, but are the pumps safe?

Experts say it is something to be aware of.

"Our stores are clean. Our People are clean. Our equipment is clean. We clean them on a very regular basis," said Mark Griffin of the Michigan Petroleum Association.

Griffin says gas station and convenience store employees are cleaning surfaces every thirty minutes.

"We took clean stores and made them even cleaner," he said.

On Friday, Governor Gretchen Whitmer said people who pump gas are putting themselves and others at risk just by touching the nozzle.

Medical experts say it is a risk, but not something people should be overly concerned about if they are careful.

"If someone before you blew their nose or sneezed into their hand and touched that object, went about their business and you pumped after and touched your can definitely pass the coronavirus onto yourself," said R. Dale Jackson, Director of EMS at Sparrow Hospital.

The virus is less likely to stay on surfaces when exposed to outside elements.

"It's less likely to stay infectious for as long because it now has the environment it has to deal with," said Jackson.

So does that mean we shouldn't be cautious when at the pump?

"Of course not, we all need to be cautious today," said Griffin.

"We definitely need to think about how we're going to protect ourselves when we're out in public situations like that," said Jackson.

If you do have to fill up, take some precautionary measures: carry disinfectant wipes or disposable gloves in your car. Wipe down the nozzle and the key pad.

If you don't have those, you can use napkins, plastic bags or anything else in your car that could form a barrier and can easily be thrown out.

During her ress conference today, Governor Whitmer reacted to some who say she's caused panic at the pump.

She said it was never her intent to scare people and doesn't want gas station workers to think remarks she's made about gas station safety were belittling.

"This is not to disparage our service stations, it's not to create fear," Whitmer said. "A lot of them are taking herculean efforts to keep everything sanitary and we're going to work with them as we're going forward because it's in all of our interest to make sure people can have confidence in the safety of going to gas up because everyone's going to need to. The do a great job, it was not a criticism of the industry. It was simply an example to show we overlap in ways that we don't even think about every single day."