Grocery stores are now on the front lines as states battle the spread of COVID-19. Stores have enacted policies in an effort to keep customers and employees safe, and ensure supplies are available.
The new normal includes face masks, plexiglass partitions and 6-foot distancing tape on the floor in checkout lines. Stores have adjusted their hours to allow for vulnerable populations to shop and for employees to restock the store.
Dana Ward, spokeswoman for Acme, which has a store in Rehoboth Beach, said, “We’re refilling high-demand products as quickly as we can through our robust and sophisticated supply chain. If the product you’re looking for isn’t in the store today, we are working to replenish it as soon as possible.”
She said Acme is asking customers to respect quantity limits of high-demand items such as hand sanitizer, household cleaners, toilet paper and hand soap. Ward said Acme has reduced the variety of the same product on the shelves in order to streamline supply to provide the most essential goods to as many customers as possible.
Ward said the store is limiting occupancy to one person per 150 square feet during normal business hours and one person per 300 square feet during special hours – from 7 to 9 a.m., Monday to Friday – reserved for seniors and other vulnerable customers. Each store has one front entrance and exit, and an employee is stationed near the doors to monitor traffic.
Similar measures are being taken in other large grocery stores in the Cape Region.
Giant, which also has a store in Rehoboth, has instituted limits on numbers of customers in the store at the same time. While the number varies from store to store, it is based on occupancy limits and square footage. The company has also requested customers limit the size of their shopping party to one member per household.
“This pandemic has reaffirmed the critical role groceries play in our local communities, and we appreciate our customers’ cooperation as we implement additional measures to help keep both them and our team members safe,” said Giant President Nicholas Bertram. “In addition, as we remain focused on providing this essential service, we also ask our customers to do their part by shopping with as few family members as possible and buying only what they need at this time.”
Giant is also stationing employees at the front of the store to track shopper flow. Once the store reaches capacity, customers will be asked to form a line outside, with people staying 6 feet apart. As customers leave, new ones will be let in. The company has also created one entrance and one exit, one-way aisles and register queues in all stores.
To protect employees, Giant is providing face shields and masks, and employees are required to wear them; gloves are optional.
Safeway, which like Acme is owned by Albertsons, is posting signs at entrances and in back rooms asking everyone to perform self-screening prior to shopping or clocking in, and employees, customers and vendors are encouraged to stay home if any member of the household has been diagnosed or suspected of having COVID-19, or if they are showing symptoms, Ward said.
Other safety measures include directional arrows to promote one-way traffic, disinfecting and cleaning all departments and bathrooms, free pharmacy delivery, and not accepting product returns. Ward said customers are encouraged to use plastic store bags, but if they do bring in reusable bags, they need to bag their own groceries.
“We are deeply grateful to our store associates for their tireless dedication during this critical time,” Ward said. “They are working long hours under difficult circumstances to make sure their neighbors have the food, medicine, and essential goods they need. Our associates are truly the people to thank for keeping our stores and pharmacies operating to provide an essential service for our customers and the communities we serve.”