For many of us right now, our only trips into the outside world are to the pharmacy or to the grocery store. That is, of course, a good thing — it’s one of the few measures regular citizens can take to flatten the curve and lessen the spread of coronavirus so that hospitals don’t get overloaded when trying to treat the thousands of patients who are being hospitalized across the country. Some stores have responded with new policies to help shoppers feel safer and to help practice social distancing at a larger scale than the individual choices we make as citizens.
Home Depot, Walgreens, Walmart, and Target have all instituted new rules to help keep customers safe during essential shopping. Hopefully, these new rules will help limit the risk of spreading COVID-19 when shopping, which obviously cannot be eliminated outright but can help keep the curve flattened.
Home Depot has announced it will limit the number of customers in each store and will only allow customers in one at a time, to help limit overcrowding at the entrances of the stores and within the stores themselves. They are also running on a limited schedule and will close every store at 6 p.m.
Home Depot has also announced they will not be selling any N95 masks in stores or online. Instead, they’ll be donating their stores of the masks to hospitals, health care providers and first responders, fulfilling a critical need for those on the front lines of the crisis. They’re also expanding benefits for their workers — with 80 more hours of paid time off for full-time associates — and those 65 years or older get an additional extra 80 hours of PTO for full-time workers and an additional 40 for part-time workers.
Costco is making some changes to their operating rules to keep up with the Coronavirus pandemic social distancing guidelines. Some of the changes will represent a return to a sort of pre-COVID-19 normal (otherwise known as P.C.E.) and some will denote the brand new world that we’re all living in, whether we like it or not.
Starting May 4, the majority of Costco locations and Costco gas stations will return to regular hours. But even though Costco will expand their operating hours, Costco will also require all customers and employees to wear face coverings and masks every time they come into their stores. While this requirement doesn’t apply to kids under 2, or people who can’t wear masks due to medical conditions, the vast majority of people who work and shop at Costco will be expected to comply.
Costco is also helping shoppers over 60 shop safely by providing ‘senior hours.’ Many Costco warehouses will be open for people over 60 or those with disabilities only from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m. every day from Monday to Friday. Costco is also limiting two shoppers per membership to enter the stores to limit crowding and encouraging members to still follow social distancing rules.
Healthcare workers and first responders will have priority access to Costco stores, and Costco will be allowing shoppers to use their own reusable bags so long as they pack them themselves. They’re also not accepting returns on paper towels, toilet paper, sanitizing wipes, and rice, and will limit purchases on certain items to curb panic buying. The famous Costco food court will have a limited menu and the seating area will be closed. Costco’s eyeglass, hearing aid, floral, and jewelry departments may not be open depending on Costco location.
Last week, Target, which employs 350,000 store employees, announced brand new social distancing guidelines to be followed at all of its 1,900 stores across the country. Starting April 4, the store began monitoring, and when necessary metering guest traffic at individual stores to promote social distancing and limit capacity at stores, and supplied all of its team members face masks and gloves to wear at work. The stores will now provide a designated waiting area outside the store with social distancing markers.
The company has also increased its cleaning schedule in its stores and distribution centers and put plexiglass partitions at all of the registers in the store. They’ve also enacted contactless order pick up and home delivery and put signs across the store to remind patrons and employees to remain six feet apart at all times.
Walgreens has begun working with the federal government and local health officials to provide expanded access to testing for the coronavirus. They also moved all of their stores — even the 24-hour locations — to a 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. schedule. Any store with a 24-hour drive-through pharmacy will remain as such.
Walgreens also announced a seniors hour, a policy many stores have been activating as seniors have an increased risk of serious illness and death because of COVID-19. All Walgreens stores will open every Tuesday at 8 a.m. and have a full hour dedicated to senior citizens, and their caregivers who can go into the stores for them. The senior discount will be offered all day on Tuesdays, and customers 55 and older will get 30 percent off any regularly priced Walgreens brands and 20 percent off national brands.
Walgreens is selling cleaning supplies, hand sanitizers, cough/cold and pain and fever medicines, select grocery items, infant formula, medical supplies, and paper goods through their drive-through as well.
Every Walgreens location has decals and signage near registers that designate where customers should stand to comply with social distancing guidelines. Walgreens is also installing protective plastic shields in every single one of their stores, starting first with heavily impacted areas like New York City and increasing how many times they clean their stores and are doing deeper, more frequent cleans. They’re putting in place purchase limits on items like hand sanitizer, soap, and thermometers to two per product category per customer.
Walmart is one of the largest employers in the United States. As such, they’ve enacted some new social distancing guidelines, store hours, and cleaning schedules in order to keep customers and their employees safe.
Starting last weekend, Walmart began limiting the entry of customers and will now only allow five customers for every 1,000 square feet of a Walmart store at any given time — representing some 20 percent of a store’s capacity. Additionally, Walmarts across the country will limit entrance to one single entry door, and direct arriving customers there where they will be admitted one-by-one in a socially distant line and counted to enforce the distancing guidelines. After the store has reached the new capacity, workers will let customers in on a one-in-one-out basis.
Walmart will also close all of its 24-hour locations at night to help enable safe cleaning and restocking of the stores, and every Tuesday until April 28 will open one hour early for a Seniors-only shopping hour. The stores will also have a one-way exit, a different door than through they entered, to help keep distance between customers.
For their employees, the company has expanded their paid leave policy, installed sneeze guards and social distance markers in stores, and made gloves and masks available to associates who want to use them while working.