After grocery store workers at three Shaw’s supermarkets tested positive for COVID-19, grocers are eager to reassure customers that stores are safe.
John Dumais, president and CEO of the New Hampshire Grocers Association, said he is confident grocery stores are taking appropriate measures to keep workers and customers from exposing each other to the coronavirus.
He said most stores are posting reminders for people to stay six feet apart — about the length of two carriages — in checkout lines.
Shaw’s spokesman Teresa Eddington said the store is putting up plastic shields around cashiers, and Dumais said other stores around the state are starting to do the same.
Starting Thursday, Market Basket will limit the number of shoppers allowed into its stores at one time, and staff will sanitize a carriage for each customer coming in.
At Shaw’s, Eddington said, posters remind people to keep a distance, and the store has instituted Tuesday and Thursday morning shopping hours for seniors and people with health risks.
Workers at all grocery stores are cleaning more, Dumais said, especially around the checkout areas. Keypads and conveyor belts are regularly sanitized, he said. “Anything the consumer would be touching,” Dumais said.
Dumais asked shoppers to find a balance between limiting trips and buying out the whole store. Consider buying a week’s worth of groceries, he said, not a month’s supply.
The extra cleaning, on top of the usual work, is putting workers under strain, Dumais said. He said many stores are shortening their hours to allow time for thorough cleaning, and some are hiring temporary cleaners.
Dumais said leave for workers who get sick varies by employer, but he wants workers to be able to stay home if they are ill.
“Our primary concern is the cashiers, the baggers... the front end of the store is the most critical part of the operation,” he said. “If you’re not feeling well, don’t come in today.”
Littleton resident Colleen McCarthy said she applied for a job at Shaw’s after she lost her job at Cannon Mountain last month.
“I was looking for essential jobs that need people,” McCarthy said. “I was interested in working on the front lines.”
But she worried about what the store was doing to keep workers safe and noticed there were no sanitizing wipes for the shopping carts.
New Hampshire grocers have not received guidance from state or local health officials, but some other states have issued guidelines for essential businesses.
This week, Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont advised grocery stores to limit the number of people allowed in at once, close alternate checkout lanes, install plastic shields around cashiers and shut down food sampling and self-serve counters. Lamont also urged families to send only one person to the store.