Grocery stores across Gloucester and the U.S. are installing protective plastic shields at checkouts to help keep cashiers and shoppers from infecting one another with the coronavirus.
At Gloucester's Stop & Shop on Thatcher Road, Market Basket of Gloucester Crossing, and the two Shaw's of Eastern Avenue and Railroad Avenue on Thursday shoppers paid for and bagged their groceries, separated from employees by newly installed see-through barriers.
Also installing plastic is Common Crow Natural Market on Eastern Avenue in an effort to keep both customers and employees safe.
"It helps protect both sides," owner Kate Noonan said. "It helps keep customers safe and keep the staff safe."
The measures are “all about safety for our customers and our associates," Stop & Shop spokeswoman Jennifer Brogan said.
“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.
In an effort to mitigate the risk, Shaw's has reserved two hours every Tuesday and Thursday for senior citizens and other at-risk members. This time, officially deemed "Golden Hours," goes from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m.
Market Basket has done a similar move, opening its stores from 6 a.m. to 7 a.m. for only customers over the age of 60. Market Basket also told shoppers on its Facebook page how to maintain social distancing in its stores: One of red or cream flooring tile equals a foot, so customers should stand six tiles away from one another.
The Common Crow has also implemented cleaning sanitizer machines throughout the store, check-out lanes are reduced to two to mitigate spreading of germs, and email and call-in ordering — which includes curbside pick-up.
"We are so busy," Noonan said, explaining that fewer people are in the store but a lot of orders coming in via phone.
Also installing plastic are 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.
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.
Grocery stores are not the only food and drink companies that have seen in an influx in customers since the pandemic.
Kathleen Morgan of Savour Wine & Cheese of 76 Prospect St., said business has increased since the pandemic was announced just over two weeks ago.
"Last week we were very busy because of the shutdown and this week we are a little less busy because people have calmed down a bit," Morgan said.
Savour is selling over 250 wines that are under $15 and 135 that are under $9.99.
In addition to having its cleaning crew come in every week to disinfect and wipe down surfaces, the employees of Savour have been wearing gloves and practice social distancing as much as possible.
"Most of our customers have been calling in and not coming into the store," Morgan explained. "We have very little traffic."
People can even just pop up their trunk and an employee will leave the wine in their car, she explained.
"People don't even have to get out of their car, they don't even have to roll down their window if they don't want to," Morgan laughed.
Material from Associated Press writer Rodrique Ngowi was used in this report. taff writer Taylor Ann Bradford can be reached at 978-675-2705, or via email at email@example.com.