What to expect at grocery stores regarding safety, stock and hours
Grocery and drug stores across in the area are quickly implementing a number of changes to keep customers and employees safe. In addition, Gov. Cooper has also mandated new safety measures starting April 13 at 5 pm. Read on for the details.Posted — Updated
Grocery and drug stores across the Triangle and the country are implementing a number of changes to keep customers and their employees as safe as possible during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Because they are considered essential businesses during this outbreak, grocery stores and drug stores will remain open even while there is a stay-at-home order in place in North Carolina.
Following are the precautions that many stores are taking to allow customers to continue to get their needed groceries in the safest way. Because this is a fluid situation, these restrictions may change in the coming weeks.
UPDATE on 4/13/20:
On Monday, April 13 at 5:00 pm, a new executive order from Gov. Cooper with tougher guidelines for social distancing for retailers during the coronavirus outbreak will go into effect.
The executive order places stronger rules toward these practices and makes it mandatory for every location.
"This should make shopping safer," Cooper said, "and help prevent stores from becoming flashpoints of the virus."
* 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.
* 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.
Stores Limiting Number of Shoppers
Many grocery stores and drug stores are already limiting the number of shoppers allowed in their stores at the same time. Some stores have an employee standing outside and once the maximum number of people is in the store, another person is only allowed to go in to the store when a customer leaves the store.
The following stores have implemented formal temporary policies limiting the number of shoppers. You may see other stores regulating their store entry as well at this time.
Safety Features Implemented In Stores
Most stores have now implemented a number of safety measures to protect employees and customers. Following are some of the precautions that stores are taking while this pandemic continues:
* Assigning an employee to clean cart handles when they are returned
* Installing plastic sneeze guards at registers
* Wiping down register areas after every customer including customer-facing surfaces
* Placing social distance markers at checkout and outside the store where customers may have to wait when stores are regulating entry
* Showing signage throughout stores reminding customers to adhere to social distancing guidelines of at least 6 feet or more between any other people, including employees
* Providing non-surgical face masks and gloves for employees and delivery service employees to wear while working
* Taking the temperature of employees when they arrive for work.
* Limiting the number of customers who can be in the store at the same time
* Restricting the number of customers who can enter a warehouse club on the same membership card at the same time
* Requiring customers to enter at one door and exit through a different door in order to limit contact
* Closing fitting rooms in stores where clothing is also sold
* Closing hot and cold food bars
* Hiring thousands of additional employees (and offering hourly bonus increases to all employees) to meet the demand for online pick-up and delivery orders
Stores Limiting Purchases of Specific Products
Because stock is low on many items in stores right now, especially toilet paper, paper towels, baby wipes, meat, eggs and more, most stores have implemented product purchase limits. In most cases, toilet paper and other items are limited to one package per person.
Returns Not Accepted
Most grocery stores are no accepting returns at this time. If there is an issue with a grocery item, some stores will still issue a refund or exchange, but they do not want you to bring the product back in to the store. See your specific store for details.
Delays In Pick-Up and Delivery Times
As the number of customers who are ordering online for pick-up and delivery increases, the wait times to get these orders has increased significantly. Grocery chains have hired thousands of additional employees to meet the demand for those orders but the wait times for being able to pick up the products or have them delivered are still a couple days to more than a week for some locations.
Free Delivery for Prescriptions and Groceries
Adjusted Operating Hours
Senior and At-Risk Shopping Times
You will notice that many of these dedicated shopping times are early in the morning. Most stores are thoroughly cleaning at the end of the day and the stores restock the shelves at night after trucks make their deliveries. The early shopping hours allow seniors and at-risk shoppers an opportunity to shop when the stores are cleaner and better stocked. In addition, stores are better able to reduce traffic from other shoppers if the store is not yet open for the day when the at-risk shopping time begins.
The early hours may seem like an inconvenience to some, but they are in place for the safety and benefit of those shoppers most at risk during this pandemic. If you prefer to stay out of the store completely, most stores are offering store pick-up when you order online. Once you have ordered, chosen a pick-up time and paid for your order online, you can then drive-up to the store and an employee will bring your groceries out to your car.
How You Can Protect Yourself While Shopping
There are many things that shoppers can do to protect themselves including using hand sanitizer, moving quickly through the store to limit the amount of time, staying at least 6 feet away from anyone else, only touching what you plan to buy, not touching your face, ordering online for pick-up or delivery to avoid going in to the store at all,
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