On Monday, big box retailers like Target, Walmart and Costco were asked to stop selling non-essential items in the state of Vermont. According to a report by WCVB, Gov. Phil Scott added an addendum to his executive order about the coronavirus, ordering stores to stop selling things besides food, beverages and pharmacy items. The state apparently fears that sales on other items might draw people out of their self-isolation prematurely.
Like many states, Vermont is allowing retailers who sell essential products to remain open through the stay-at-home order during the coronavirus pandemic. However, it is taking a harder line against department stores, which sell groceries and medication, but also luxury goods like electronics or clothes. It is asking stores to either remove these items from the sales floor or close the aisles where they are sold, in order to dissuade customers from going out for them.
A spokesperson for the Agency of Commerce and Community Development told reporters that these are not new restrictions, but that they fit in with the governor's original executive order. A spokesman for Scott added that the governor "appreciates everything Vermonters have done thus far and recognizes it's been very disruptive, but every action taken has been to slow the spread of this virus, which if successful, will save lives. But it requires everyone to make some sacrifices."
"Non-essential" items reportedly include beauty supplies, arts and crafts, clothes and electronics, among other things. The state recommended that "showrooms and garden sections of large home improvement centers should be closed."
In addition to restricting their inventories, stores have been asked to stick to online orders, delivery and curbside pick-up services as much as possible.
So far, Vermont appears to be the first state to make such an order on a large scale, although some cities have already done so on a local level. Chicopee, Massachusetts has asked stores to block non-essential aisles. In a Facebook post, the local police showed yellow ropes with laminated notes closing those sections.
These measures vary state by state, but are currently expected to remain in place at least through the end of April. Some medical experts say that they must go on longer than that in order to help curb the impact of the coronavirus on the medical infrastructure.
Visit the CDC's website for the latest on the coronavirus pandemic.