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Grocery stores adapt to stay safe

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BRATTLEBORO — While other businesses shut their doors or see the number of customers dwindle in the face of the coronavirus pandemic, grocery stores are staying open and trying to stay safe. They've had to change some operations for the health of their employees and customers.

Managers from Hannaford in Brattleboro and Shaw's in Wilmington referred to the Reformer to spokespeople for their companies.

"As we all continue to navigate through this public health crisis together Shaw's and Star Market are continuing to do everything we can to prioritize the health and safety of our customers, our communities, and our associates, and to ensure our customers have access to the food, medications, and other essential goods they need at this critical time," Teresa Edington, Shaw's external communication manager, wrote in an email. "In addition, we have implemented several steps to ensure the safety of the people who shop in and work in our stores."

Shaw's and Star Market have added plexiglass in checkout lanes at its 150 stores. That "serves as protective barrier between customers and cashiers and provide added reassurance and peace of mind," the email states.

Employees are "regularly reminded" to follow all federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines such as frequent hand washing and surface cleaning.

"We've taken enhanced measures to clean and disinfect all departments, restrooms and other high-touch points of the store throughout the day, as well as a deep cleanse at the end of each business day," Edington said.

Posters are going up in stores to remind customers to practice "social distancing" and keep six feet away from another one. That is approximately two shopping carts, Edington said, adding that "designated waiting points" have been installed through floor markers to help spread people out.

"We are constantly looking for solutions to help us improve this practice in our stores," she said.

All Vermont, Rhode Island, New Hampshire and Maine stores are open 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday through Sunday. And Tuesdays and Thursdays from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. are reserved for senior citizens and other at-risk members of the community.

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Ericka Dodge, external communications manager for Hannaford, said her company wants to keep both parties safe.

"We have high standards for our stores, and exhaustive and thorough food safety practices," she said in an email. "We conduct rigorous cleaning procedures throughout our store — from offering sanitizing wipes at our entryways, to keeping our bathrooms well-maintained, to regularly sanitizing PIN pads, grocery conveyor belts, and other high-touch points throughout the store."

Hannaford employees are following strict hygiene techniques deemed most effective at combating viruses, Dodge said. Those who are not feeling well are asked to stay home.

Hannaford stores also have put into place "a comprehensive social distancing plan," Dodge said. Social distancing measures include posting signs for customers and employees to keep six feet away from others, having vendors and employees keep the same distance, putting up protection barriers like plexiglass between cashiers and customers, limiting potential contact during activities such as cash payments and identification checks.

Those processes and safeguards are informed by the CDC, Dodge said, "and we will continue to evolve and improve those practices as circumstances change."

A concerned citizen, who shared his identity with the Reformer but did not want to be named in the article, said he worried about his daughter who works as a cashier at Hannaford and has an underlying health issue. He estimated his daughter interacts with 500 people a day.

"Any of those 500 can be infected and not know that," he said.

At the time of the interview last week, he said cashiers didn't have hand sanitizer at their registers, couldn't wear masks and are only allowed one pair of gloves.

Reach staff writer Chris Mays at cmays@reformer.com and at @CMaysBR on Twitter.


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