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Coronavirus transmission unlikely on packages shipped from overseas

Shoppers should focus instead on return shipping
Posted at 4:00 AM, Mar 05, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-05 11:48:54-05

KANSAS CITY, Mo.  — Despite health experts who emphasize that there's no need to fear contracting coronavirus from a package shipped from China, many people are spooked by the disease's global outbreak.

"The virus really doesn't live that easily on surfaces outside of a human body and is now transmitting person-to-person," Dr. Stephanie Stovall, a specialist in pediatric epidemiology and infection prevention, told an E.W. Scripps sister station in Fort Myers.

That didn't stop one Kansas City-area woman from returning an item she bought online over concerns about the coronavirus, leading to a frustrating shopping experience.

Karen Stokes-Tyiska remembers being on her phone one day in December.

"Just playing a little game, and up pops this retail store," she said.

The site, which she had never heard of before, was called Dressynew and on it Stokes-Tyiska found the perfect colorful, patterned jacket.

"I just loved it," she said. "It was so cute, so I thought, 'I think I want that.'"

She paid $32 for the coat and waited for her shipment to arrive.

When January rolled around, the jacket still hadn't arrived.

It was around the same time that Stokes-Tyiska, who recently suffered a heart attack, began following the headlines about the coronavirus.

She describes herself as "not fearful, but vigilant." But when she learned her coat was coming from China, she tried to cancel the order.

The company wrote in an emailed response that it does "understand your hesitations of refusing to receive or cancelling your ordered items since there's an epidemic situation in Wuhan. Our company is aware to this kind of situation, and we are conducting more quality inspection before we ship the product."

Dressynew also said its staff members "complied on health certificates required," and that it was too late to cancel Stokes-Tyiska's order.

Instead, the company said she would have to receive the shipment then send it back.

"When I got the package, I was very hesitant," Stokes-Tyiska said. "I opened just the top portion of it just to see if it was from this company, and I put the package in the trunk of the car."

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Stokes-Tyiska shouldn't have been concerned, because the virus can't survive on surfaces outside the body for long periods of time, like the days or weeks it takes to ship something from overseas.

Still, she felt uncomfortable and the next part of her experience includes a warning online shoppers should heed.

"It was $20.24 to ship it back," she said, referring to the $32 coat.

Her overseas order did not include free shipping for returns, which experts said is something you should always check before ordering.

Sometimes shipping something back costs more than the product itself.

Stokes-Tyiska said she sent the package back on Feb. 17, but she still doesn't know when her refund will arrive.

The whole experience made her hesitant to shop online in the future.

"Let's just say that I would rather go into stores now and take a look, see what they offer," she said.