Area supermarkets update and review policies for social distancing

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By Vicki Greene, Contributing Writer

Area supermarkets update and review policies for social distancing

Regional – Businesses deemed essential in Massachusetts include grocery stories and several big box stores, are open but policies differ by store and several have updated their policies due to the novel coronavirus pandemic. All stores say it’s best to check their website or call your local store, if customers have questions about operational issues. Additionally, Gov. Charlie Baker has requested that the commonwealth’s residents who are deemed non-essential only leave their homes if absolutely necessary for food, medicines and that when they do, they wear a cloth mask covering their nose and mouth. Baker, in a press conference on April 10, said officials expect that coronavirus numbers will continue to surge through at least Monday, April 20. 

Baker has also mandated that all chain supermarkets dedicate their first hour for seniors and those who are immunocompromised. Bottle return machines are also not operating for safety purposes.  Recyclable shopping bags are not allowed – plastic bags are also now available at most supermarket locations.

Many stores have instituted  at their cash registers, as well as limiting the number of shoppers at a time into the store. Delis are not custom cutting meats for their customers but instead are pre-slicing for “Grab and Go” and self service buffets are now not in operation. 

According to Wegmans’ local store management, customers are waiting in line and being permitted to enter in groups according to the number of cashiers on a shift as “to ensure that lines are not backed up at the registers.” Because the number of staff per shift changes, management said they cannot predict wait times for customers.  Signage is on the floor in each store as well as outside in the customer line, to help maintain the six feet social distancing policy. 

Stop & Shop locations in Westborough, Shrewsbury and Hudson have also changed several policies.  Corporate spokesperson Madison Camelo said “Whenever possible, we are opening only every other register lane to create further distancing between customers at checkout instead of opening lanes right next to each other.”  

Rick Roche, CEO of Wellesley-based Roche Bros., with a location in Westborough, has issued a statement online regarding updates on social distancing procedures.  The letter reads in part, “Maintaining proper physical distance between customers and associates is much more achievable with fewer total numbers of people in the stores. To that end, we strongly urge that only one member of your family enter the store to shop. Our associates are available to assist as needed.” 

On its website, Market Basket, with a location in Hudson, announced it has limited the number of customers shopping at one time “according to the size of the store.”  To ensure safety and social distancing, “A single entrance and exit will be designated for customers’ use. (All fire safety measures will remain in place.)”

Price Chopper with locations in Marlborough and Shrewsbury, has installed plexiglass at the registers for safety and has six-feet markings in the store.  These stores had been open 24-hours but have adjusted their hours from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. and pre-open from 6-7 a.m. for seniors “until further notice.”