- Rhode Island has issued mandatory social distancing measures for retailers that limits the number of shoppers allowed inside grocery stores at one time, according to an announcement issued by Gov. Gina Raimondo. Stores may not allow any more than 20% of the stated fire capacity, which translates to roughly one person for every 150 square feet of store space. Grocers are required to have staff counting the number of shoppers that enter and exit stores.
- Stores must also mark out 6-foot intervals in high traffic areas to indicate customer spacing, designate workers to ensure social distancing measures are being followed and offer seniors-only hours that limit customer count to 10% of the stated fire capacity.
- Rhode Island is requiring retailers to clean their stores in accordance with CDC guidelines, as well, and to designate employees to ensure that these guidelines are being followed. Gov. Raimondo said the state will conduct random assessments to ensure retailers are following the new rules.
Rhode Island’s new regulations codify steps that many retailers have put into action in recent days, including marking out customer spacing and offering seniors-only hours. What’s most notable is the limits on the number of shoppers allowed inside stores.
No chain has yet announced this measure, but it’s happening on a store-by-store basis among retailers like Costco, ShopRite and Trader Joe’s. Around two dozen ShopRite stores in New Jersey have begun limiting the number of customers allowed inside after several locations reported employees testing positive for COVID-19, according to local reports. One Trader Joe’s store contacted by Grocer Dive last week said it was only allowing 30 customers in the store at a time.
Grocers are introducing new social distancing and safety measures weekly, including plexiglass barriers at checkouts and service counters. Companies are also starting to let workers wear masks and gloves on the job if they wish, despite dwindling supplies among medical workers and the risk of alarming customers.
As the pandemic continues to spread, it’s likely more companies along with local authorities will begin enforcing customer caps in stores. Meanwhile, grocers and service providers are trying to expand e-commerce availability as shoppers shift their spending online. Kroger converted a Cincinnati-area store over to pickup-only service last week, while Instacart and Shipt have announced plans to hire hundreds of thousands of contractors.