ShopRite, Stop & Shop and Big Y are among grocers that are reducing the number of customers they permit in their Connecticut stores at a single time by half and asking families to send only one member to go shopping in a bid to promote social distancing, according to a report in the Connecticut Post. Stores will reduce their occupancy levels based on their maximum capacity under the fire code.
The adjustments follow an order from the mayor of Norwalk, Connecticut, requiring businesses in the city of about 90,000 to cut down on the number of people who enter their premises or wait in line to enter. “These are drastic measures, but [are] the only way we can slow this pandemic,” Mayor Harry W. Rilling said in a March 29 statement, noting that the city has seen a sharp rise in coronavirus cases.
The Connecticut Food Association advocated for grocery stores throughout Connecticut to follow the same guidelines to avoid having to deal with a patchwork of rules issued by individual jurisdictions, the Connecticut Post reported.
The decision by supermarkets in Connecticut to clamp down on the number of shoppers that can enter a store at the same time is part of a growing effort by food retailers across the country to limit the spread of the coronavirus. With people in much of the United States asked or compelled to stay home except for essential outings like grocery shopping, supermarkets have found themselves on the front lines of the effort to maintain distance between people when they are in public.
People have flouted instructions to practice social distancing despite admonishments from public health experts and political leaders, prompting officials to step up their efforts to keep people apart. “I’ve asked nicely and implored the public to practice physical distancing and to treat this public health crisis seriously. Unfortunately, many in our community are taking this too lightly,” Norwalk’s mayor said in ordering stores in his city to limit the number of people they let in.
Stores in Connecticut are changing their policies in the wake of a decision by neighboring Rhode Island to require even more drastic restrictions. That state has ordered grocery stores to limit the number of people in their stores to 20% of their official capacity, install markings to help people stay at least six feet apart and assign staff members to ensure shoppers follow the social distancing requirements.
Norwalk’s mayor acknowledged that for people largely confined to their homes because of the pandemic, a trip to buy food — ordinarily a routine part of life — has taken on outsized importance. “I understand that families, especially those with young children, are experiencing cabin fever staying at home. However, taking the entire family out to a store to get out of the house during the COVID-19 outbreak is unnecessarily dangerous to both your family and everyone else in the store,” Rilling said.