Walmart Shoppers Lineup Outside as Company Limits Number of Customers Inside Store

In order to make it easier for people to keep their distances from others while shopping for essentials during the coronavirus pandemic, Walmart is now limiting the number of shoppers who can go into a store at one time. This has meant customers have to wait in long lines outside stores before they are allowed in, and photos of the lines have begun popping up on social media. The policy went into effect on Friday.

The plan is to keep stores at only about 20 percent of normal capacity to protect customers and Walmart employees. Only five customers will be allowed into a store for each 1,000 square feet, so there is no specific cap for all stores nationwide. Employees have been asked to enforce the policy, which also only allows one entrance of a store to be open at a time. Customers will also be directed to follow one-way arrows down aisles to limit the number of employees and other customers they come into contact with.

"While many of our customers have been following the advice of the medical community regarding social distancing and safety, we have been concerned to still see some behaviors in our stores that put undue risk on our people," Walmart said in a statement. "We want to encourage customers to bring the fewest number of people per family necessary to shop, allow for space with other customers while shopping, and practice social distancing while waiting in lines. We're also seeing states and municipalities set varying policies regarding crowd control – which has created some confusion regarding shopping. To promote health, safety and consistency for our associates and customers in this environment, we're taking some further steps for our U.S. stores."

Employees will also be putting up signs to remind customers to follow social distancing guidelines. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has suggested people stay at least six feet away from others when in public.

"We always want people to feel welcome at Walmart, and we know that in ordinary times a store is a gathering place for members of a community to connect and socialize," the company's statement continued. "We look forward to the time when that is again the case; however, we now want to prioritize health and safety by encouraging customers to do their shopping at a distance from others, then head home."

"As the COVID-19 situation continues to develop, our leaders and operations teams will continue to listen to advice from medical experts, associates and customers, and consider how we can best serve people while helping slow the spread of the virus," Walmart concluded. "The health and safety of our associates and customers is what matters the most."

While the policy might be intended to give customers distance from one another, photos of lines outside Walmarts show how difficult that is. One photo shows a Walmart's employees using carts and x-marks on the ground to keep people six feet apart.

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The U.S. now has more than 297,000 coronavirus cases, more than any other country in the world. As of Saturday afternoon, more than 8,000 people have died, according to Johns Hopkins University.

Photo credit: Al Bello/Getty Images