Grocery stores installing barriers amid outbreak

QUINCY, Mass. (AP) — Grocery stores across the U.S. are installing protective plastic shields at checkouts to help keep cashiers and shoppers from infecting one another with the coronavirus.

At a Stop & Shop supermarket Thursday in Quincy, just south of Boston, shoppers paid for and bagged their groceries, separated from employees by newly installed see-through barriers.

“I think it’s a great protection for customers … and the cashiers,” said Jasmine Vazquez, a home health aide shopping for a client. “We’re supposed to be 6 feet away, but we’re closer to them. So that protection helps, and I feel safer.”

The measures are “all about safety for our customers and our associates,” Stop & Shop spokeswoman Jennifer Brogan said.

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“When you’re checking out, there’s not a 6-foot distance — as recommended by the CDC — between the cashier and the customer,” she said. “So we’ve added that as protection as a shield between the two.”

For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, or death.

Also installing plastic are Giant Eagle grocery stores in Ohio, as well as Walmart and the Kroger supermarket chain, which said “sneeze guards” will be erected at all its more than 2,700 stores in the next few weeks as the outbreak intensifies.

The Florida-based Publix supermarket chain said Wednesday that all 1,200 locations will have partitions installed at the cash registers, customer service desks and pharmacies within two weeks.

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“We’re taking extra precautions for the well-being of our customers and associates,” said Maria Brous, a spokeswoman for Publix Super Markets Inc.

Grocery stores have seen their business soar as authorities urge people go out only for essentials, leading them to stay and cook more at home. The stores have been extremely busy and forced to close earlier to give workers more time to clean and restock as products fly off the shelves.

Some stores have announced their employees have COVID-19. Publix announced this week that an associate in Cumming, Georgia, tested positive.

Some grocery stores in France also installed similar barriers last week when that country went into lockdown.

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Associated Press writer Adriana Gomez Licon in Miami contributed to this report.