WASHINGTON - Plexiglass is among the safety measures hundreds of grocery stores in the greater DC region plan to add as a means to keep grocery store shoppers and employees safe from the spread of Coronavirus.
FOX 5 found the new barriers installed and blue tape placed on the ground to mark safe distances at the Safeway supermarket in Northwest D.C.’s Petworth neighborhood on Tuesday.
A spokesperson with Giant Foods tells FOX 5, in the next few days customers will also see plexiglass installed in all 163 of their stores in D.C., Maryland, Virginia and Delaware. This is in addition to the supermarket already including a special time for people 60-years-old and older to shop between 6 and 7 a.m.
“We will continue to pursue ways to enhance safety and protection during these unprecedented times,” said Giant Communications & Community Relations Manager Daniel Wolk, who also told FOX 5 starting on March 30th, Giant Food pharmacies will open at 6 a.m. Monday and Thursday. The pharmacies will remain open until their regular closing time to give shoppers more time to pick up their needed prescriptions.
Despite executive orders and stern warnings against people not social distancing, crowding has become a concern as people pack supermarkets and liquor stores.
“It’s kind of scary. It’s kind of scary. You feel like you don’t want to go if you don’t have to go. I’m just scared and limit – I have not been for like a whole week,” said Suman Shrestha, a business owner himself, speaking about what it was like going grocery shopping in Montgomery County, Maryland.
Shrestha owns Fenwick Beer and Wine in Silver Spring. He’s added signs asking people to keep their distance in his store and has employees wearing gloves. He also began offering curbside service. Some of these changes, Shrestha tells FOX 5, have hurt his business as less people come into the store.
“It will be effect economic wise, but health wise, I would say we have to sacrifice something for the long term,” said Shrestha.
Jeffery Reid, dealing with the larger crowds, told FOX 5, “On any given point, it might be 100 to 200 people on the store so you just, hope that everybody can keep their safe distance but we get it because people need their toiletries or they need food. They need their supplies because no one knows. We get it. It’s just like everybody has to do what they can.”
Reid is a 12-yaer-old employee at the Giant supermarket near the Leisure World retirement community in Silver Spring. He also operated as a shop steward for UFCW Local 400, the union representing grocery store workers.
When asked if he was at all concerned, Reid answered, “This is my job. This is what I do and all of a sudden grocery workers have, you know, became essential personnel and I’m aware of that and I’m going to get up every day and keep coming to work and do what I can do to, you know, keep myself a safe distance.”
He tells FOX 5 in addition to adding plexiglass, Giant is also ensuring employees get 14-days of paid sick leave, two of several measures the UFCW Local 400 is calling for all grocery chains to implement in order keep their employees and shoppers safe during this Coronavirus pandemic.
Other stores like the Costco in Wheaton, enhanced safety measure include limiting the number of shoppers allowed inside to 50 at a time.
What about policing large groups?
Maryland State Police Spokesperson told FOX 5 as of Tuesday morning, state troopers responded to 18 calls for groups of more than 10 gathered or businesses operating that shouldn’t be. Some calls were unfounded. In others, MSP says people cooperated and dispersed. Maryland’s Governor Larry Hogan also enlisted local police departments to assist in this effort.
Greg Shipley with MSP tells FOX 5 Governor Hogan’s Executive Order is punishable under Public Safety Article 14-3A-08. If someone is given a violation, this could mean a misdemeanor conviction and up to one year in jail, or a fine up to $5,000. Executive order violators could be slapped with both.