WRAL SmartShopper

WRAL SmartShopper

Executive order puts new regulations in place for grocery stores, other businesses

Posted April 10, 2020 2:44 p.m. EDT
Updated April 10, 2020 3:31 p.m. EDT

— A new executive order with tougher guidelines for social distancing for retailers during the coronavirus outbreak will go into effect Monday at 5 p.m.

Gov. Roy Cooper announced the new rules at his Thursday press conference. The new rules are being put into place to force businesses and shoppers to practice social distancing and to help prevent the spread of germs, especially COVID-19.

Many people believe social distancing rules need to be tightened in all retail locations still open, despite the fact many businesses have sneeze guards up, have marked floors for the proper distance for people to stand and limiting the number of people in stores at one time.

The executive order places stronger rules toward these practices and makes it mandatory for every location. Retailers will have to take the following steps:

  • Limit the number of customers inside at any one time to 20 percent of allowed capacity under fire regulations, or five people per 1,000 square feet.

  • Maintain 6-foot separation between customers at checkout lines and other areas where customers congregate.

  • Routinely disinfect stores.

"This should make shopping safer," Cooper said, "and help prevent stores from becoming flashpoints of the virus."

​​​The order also encourages:

  • Limit aisles to one-way traffic.

  • Install plastic shields to separate cashiers from customers.

  • Set aside specific hours for senior citizens to shop.

  • Make hand sanitizer available for customers and staff.

Cooper said the North Carolina Retail Merchants Association backs the new guidelines to keep people apart inside stores, so he doesn't expect many violations by individual retailers. But law enforcement can issue citations for Class 2 misdemeanors for any violations, he said.

"We have talked to retail merchants and heads of grocery stores," Cooper said. "A lot of them already understood this and have already taken steps. I expect all retail stores that are open now to abide by this order.

"Law enforcement has authority to issue class two misdemeanors. We believe retail stores understand and will follow rules. Families should also just send one person to the store. Try not to shop together. Get in and get out quickly.

The executive order states the requirements will last for 30 days unless extended by further executive action.

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