Massachusetts grocery shoppers will soon notice a difference in the checkout aisle of two of the state’s largest supermarket chains.
Stop & Shop and Albertsons, the parent company of Shaw’s and Star Market, are installing Plexiglas shields at the registers in all of their stores this week as a precaution during the coronavirus outbreak. The “sneeze guards,” as Albertsons dubbed the barriers in a recent press release, are among a number of new preventative measures at the two chains aimed at protecting workers and customers in the midst of the pandemic. Grocery stores are foremost among a number of “essential” businesses allowed to stay open in Massachusetts and other states that have taken aggressive action to limit the spread of COVID-19.
“We recognize that we provide an essential service to our communities,” Vivek Sankaran, the president and CEO of Albertsons, said in a statement last week, adding that the Plexiglas shields are “an extra step to protect our associates who are in constant contact with the public and provide our customers with extra reassurance as well.”
Teresa Edington, a spokeswoman for Shaw’s and Star Market, said Monday that the shields had already been installed at more than half of their 150 locations in Massachusetts, Maine, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont. According to Edington, the company planned to finish the installations at all stores this week.
The case is similar for Stop & Shop.
Jen Brogan, a spokeswoman for the Quincy-based chain, says the company began installing the shields this weekend and will be doing so at all its more than 400 stores in New England and New York within the week. Brogan noted the barriers are add protection, since checkout lines do not provide the recommended six feet of space between customers and cashiers.
To further encourage social distancing, Stop & Shop is only opening every other register lane when possible, as opposed to opening lanes right next to each other. The supermarket is also placing signs and floor markers reminding people to stand six feet from each other at each register, on front doors, and at other places within the store where customers typically congregate, such as the deli and pharmacy. Brogan says the signs feature an image of two shopping carts, which is about six feet, as “a helpful visual.”
Albertsons have put up similar “two carts apart” reminders in the stores. And on Monday, the company said they will install similarly placed floor markers and ask customers to wait until the customer in front of them has finished collecting their groceries from the register before even beginning to unload their groceries at the checkout stand.
“We know that with our customers’ help, along with other safety measures [we] have implemented in our stores, we can create safer environments and help our communities contain the spread of this contagious disease,” Sankaran said.