I haven’t entered a grocery store in nearly two months.
Days before the Governor’s stay-at-home advisory here in Massachusetts, when the coronavirus was beginning to spread around the country, I remember feeling a heightened sense of awareness inside Target when a young child coughed several aisles away. I thought the worst: that the droplets emanating from the kid’s exhaled coughs would travel in my direction. That experience led me to stop shopping.
Consumer habits and store operations are different now, and I’m thinking of re-entering a particular grocery store.
In recent days, I polled friends and local Facebook groups. Some people were grocery shopping all along. Others are entering stores on occasion. Some live in dense cities, and others live in rural towns. The consensus is that people feel very safe in stores with high ceilings and smaller footprints, and because of the following protocols.
Masks and face coverings are required. If someone forgets to bring their own, masks are provided.
Grocery carts are sanitized. From the handle to the carriage body, everything is disinfected by staff.
Grocery store employees are wearing masks and gloves, and (most are) getting their temperature checked at the start of their shift.
Social distancing is respected. The purpose of the six-foot rule is understood. People may protest in public settings but they’re not doing it in grocery stores. Not around here, anyway.
Many stores have one-way aisles and marks on the floor to indicate where people should stand. This reduces unnecessary crowding. Walk this way or get the wrath of everyone else.
Many stores have plexiglass barriers to separate people if necessary, such as in checkout areas.
Stores are limiting entry to one person per trip. The days of shopping with your entire family are on hold. This also means that during selected times of the day, there may be a line outside. With each person exiting, someone can enter.
Independent grocery stores, regional marketplaces, and health-oriented stores are less crowded and these are where people feel much safer than in supermarket chains. Examples include Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods.
I’m very aware of the coronavirus science. Unlike my knowledge two months ago, I now know how long the virus can stay in the air before it drops and how long it stays on different types of surfaces.
I carry disinfectant wipes in my car whenever I’m driving, and I know what to wipe down and when to do it.
I recently bought these ziplock bags that fit my phone for the times I know I’ll be in certain areas and if I don’t want to get germs all over the phone.
I’m less anxious because I know other people are (also) wearing masks. Just walking in the neighborhood, I observe that if other people aren’t wearing masks then they go out of their way to avoid me. Or, they move back if I can’t go around them. People, around here, anyway, are more caring to each other.
I’m leaning toward suburban and rural areas. The key metric for me is less store traffic. Though, there also needs to be enough local competition so everyone doesn’t go the same place! I’m hearing lots of positive reviews about a certain store on an urban perimeter.
…and that’s why I am thinking of re-entering a store. Whatever I decide, and whenever I decide to do it, you can be sure I’ll take pictures and blog about the experience.