Amid the coronavirus outbreak, social distancing has become the best practice in fighting the spread. As a result, many non-essential stores across the country have locked their doors and switched over to an online-only outlet for the time being. For essential stores like grocery chains, business has been anything but normal as limitations have been placed on capacity and masks and protective gear are being worn by workers and shoppers, alike.
While online delivery and pick-up options have grown, the physical shopping aspect has remained a constant, which means customers are putting not just themselves at risk, but the employees. According to a report on CNN, Marc Perrone, president of the United Food and Commercial Workers' union, believes supermarkets need to act now and move to online only because "careless customers" have become "probably the biggest threat" to employees.
Perrone isn't the only one sharing that line of thinking. John Logan, professor and director of Labor and Employment Studies at San Francisco State University, knows it is important to eliminate human interaction where possible. "Anything that reduces the need for interaction with the public and allows for greater physical distancing will ultimately better protect grocery workers," said Logan. "Shuttering stores and repurposing them for pickup and delivery only would be a positive step."
Places like Walmart have been swarmed with people inside, despite extending their online delivery and pickup times. Meanwhile, some local grocers have found it easier to close up shop and move to a safer shopping experience for its customers.
Mike Houston, who runs a market in Takoma Park, Maryland, told CNN he shut his place down in the early going to keep his employees safe. "I'm unwilling to put grocery store employees, essential though we are, in a position to risk what can be a fatal infection," he said. The same general manager also tossed shade at companies still putting their people at risk, "Any store still allowing hundreds of members of the public to enter every day is taking a calculated risk on behalf of their front line staff. That is highly irresponsible to me."
Supermarket giant, Kroger, who has offered its employees benefits and bonuses for being on the front line, has kept its doors open during the pandemic and experienced its first employee to contract COVID-19 over the weekend. Earlier in April, the company announced it would begin to limit the amount of customers that enter the store to help slow the spread.