Supermarkets are slowly becoming unsafe for their own employees. To date, five ShopRite employees have test positive for COVID-19, prompting more than two dozen stores to roll out new aggressive social distancing steps to prevent the spread of the virus to both customers and employees.
“Different stores have adopted an approach where they are decreasing the amount of consumers can be in the store at one moment, some as low as 30% of the volume that they’re used to having. And they’re also instilling practices such as putting tape in the line, so that it’s clearly demarcated where the 6 feet social distancing reference point is. I have seen some amazing efforts being made, such as the Plexiglas and paying electrically so the cashier does not have to exchange money with the consumer,” said Corey Basch, professor of public health at William Paterson University.
Some feel these practices are helping, but it might be a little too late, thus prompting employees at grocery stores, including Whole Foods, to hold “sick-outs” on Tuesday to protest current conditions and pay.
Basch says there are even more practices stores need to put into place.
“Sanitizing these highly touched surfaces, such as the handle of the cart, the doorknobs, things that are frequently touched. And then while you’re in the store, just be mindful that you’re now touching products that other people touched. Often times people are intermittently touch their phones, then they touch their face, this is where things get complicated and your risk goes up. Any of those practices in the absence of proper hand hygiene are ineffective,” Basch said.
She also says people should be mindful of how they dispose of used gloves once they exit the supermarket.
“This is certainly not a time to be disrespectful, to be littering. Someone is going to have to pick those gloves up,” she added.
Basch says maintaining sanitizing practices doesn’t end when you leave the store.
“When you walk out the grocery store, you are then loading the car. You’re bring home packages. You have produce that other people have touched, so when you get that produce home it needs to be washed with soap and water, just like you washed your hands. Any surfaces where bags have touched needs to be disinfected. And packaging itself can also be washed,” she said.
Basch recommends writing your grocery list on a piece of paper that you can easily discard, instead of using your phone. She says the more time you linger in a supermarket, the higher your risk of contracting the virus becomes.