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How to safely handle used game cartridges during COVID?


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I LOVE NES games, and there were some cheap ones that I've thought about picking up on eBay.  However, one of the people that I live with is definitely high-risk, and I don't want to bring COVID germs into our house from buying a used game on eBay.  I do have a container of 70% isopropyl alcohol wipes, and I wonder if wiping down a cartridge with those would work, or if leaving the game outside (inside our garage) for a certain length of time would work.  Any suggestions?

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I think it's a good (and timely) question. 

All of this is my own opinion, your mileage may vary.  I feel that the ability of contracting COVID from surfaces is much much smaller than from exposure to particles in the air.  For the stuff I get through the mail, I know it's been untouched for several days inside the box as it's made it's way through the mail system.  I will give it a quick wipe down and call it good.  The external mailing box - I'll recycle those and wash my hands really well after opening.



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My advice:

I think that you have every right to be concerned here, @dave4shmups. It's nice to see people taking this pandemic seriously.

@RickR is right about COVID being much, much, much harder to contract from surfaces. You'd most likely be alright, but it's nice to be careful. What I'd do in your scenario is open the box and take out the games. Wipe down the box, wash your hands well afterwards. With the cartridges, I'd let them sit out in your garage or something for a couple of days to air them out for a couple of days.

And good on you for building your NES collection! It's something I hope to do this year as well. 

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1 minute ago, HDN said:

wash your hands

This!  If you don't do anything else at least do this.  Before you open the box (it is said that COVID is airborne and doesn't attach to surfaces) put on gloves and a mask to protect yourself.  You might think about opening the box in a room of your house seldom used like a garage or something.  Wash your hands before and after handling your package and its contents.  Washing hands often is the first line of defense.

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I don't think you have much to worry about. From all accounts, transmission from surfaces is very unlikely and the virus does not last long on surfaces anyways. Here's the survival rate on surfaces that may relate to buying games on ebay according to WebMD. Exposure to warmer temperatures and even the sun can reduce this. 

Examples: milk containers and detergent bottles, subway and bus seats, backpacks, elevator buttons
2 to 3 days

Examples: shipping boxes
24 hours

Examples: mail, newspaper
The length of time varies. Some strains of coronavirus live for only a few minutes on paper, while others live for up to 5 days.

Long story short, in the unlikely event that the virus comes in contact with your package, it most likely won't survive the trip to your home.

If you want to take extra precautions, you could do any of the following:

  • Wipe package and games with a disinfecting wipe
  • After receiving the box,  allow it to set in an isolated area before opening for a few days
  • Wash hands after touching the box and contents for the first few days

I suppose a UV light may also be used on the box in contents.

So I would say, don't be afraid to buy games through the mail and take extra precautions if it gives you peace of mind.

The No Swear Gamer on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UChtJuo040EOCTVziObIgVcg

Host of The Atari 7800 Game by Game Podcast on iTunes, Stitcher and YouTube

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I would think if NES games are listed as "tested & working" means whomever selling was blowing profusely into the cart slot & licking the edge-connector until the thing booted at-least ONCE.

If listed as "untested" they may have tried the above but didn't boot -or- it was in a shoebox they found in the attic that's been there for 20+ years with no contact at all

Even though you want to play your much anticipated new game, my advice would be to not do the above right out of the mailing package.

Great tips from the other members here the USPS Web site is a good start on recommendations for  your safety & your loved-ones https://www.cdc.gov/hai/prevent/environment/surfaces.html


Welcome to Atari I/O




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What I do is that I touch the cartridge as I would normally do.  What I don't do is touch my face without first washing my hands.  I will use hand sanitizer if I'm touching multiple items and I don't even wait for the sanitizer to dry entirely, so what I touch gets some of the sanitizer on itself as well. 

At times, if it is something I'm not in a hurry to get, I just let the box sit for a day or two as the virus won't survive for more than that on the cardboard.  In general, the more porous the surface, the faster the virus dies.  When I open the box, I still don't touch my face until I have washed my hands and I still use sanitizer as I described above. 

🖖 Going to the final frontier, gaming...

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