Maine’s largest grocery chain is placing plexiglass screens at cash registers to stop the spread of coronavirus in the high-traffic areas at its stores. It joins other major retailers around the country in taking the precaution.
All of Hannaford Supermarkets’ 180 stores in Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Vermont and New York will have the screens by the end of the day on Friday, said Ericka Dodge, spokeswoman for the Scarborough-based chain. National retailers such as Costco, 7-Eleven, Target, Walmart and Whole Foods have also begun or pledged to install the sneeze guards in areas such as check-out aisles and pharmacy counters where it’s difficult, if not impossible, for customers and employees to stay six feet apart, per U.S. CDC guidelines.
As the spread of the novel coronavirus has shuttered restaurant dining rooms and confined Mainers to their homes, grocers — deemed essential by state government — face unprecedented demand and booming business. But the high volume of customer traffic places supermarket workers at risk of contracting the coronavirus. A store worker in Italy has died, highlighting the risks grocery store workers face. In Maine, an employee at the Winterport Freshies gas station and convenience store has tested positive for COVID-19, that business said this week.
“We are guided by a simple objective of keeping our customers and associates safe,” Dodge said Thursday.
It’s not only national retailers that are installing plexiglass screens.
Tradewinds, a Maine-based chain with 14 grocery store and convenience store locations, will have screens installed by the end of the week, said Chuck Lawrence, owner of the chain that started in Blue Hill.
Lawrence and his store carpenter, Danny Barker, began installing the screens on Wednesday. The last outlet to be upgraded, a convenience store in Calais, will be done on Friday, Lawrence said.
“It’s all precautionary. You cannot check out and have a six-foot distance so you need a barrier,” Lawrence said. “We are [a small chain] and knew we could do it on our own.”
Tradewinds has also installed hand sanitizers and a sign reminding customers of social distancing at front doors and eliminated the use of reusable bags. Register clerks have been told to sanitize their own hands, wipe down register conveyor belts and the small counter where customers exchange money with clerks, as often as possible, said Josh Theriault, general manager at the Blue Hill store.
Customers at the Blue Hill Tradewinds, sisters-in-law Julia and Elizabeth Parker, appreciated the precautions, but wondered whether the sneeze guards and 6-foot markers — squares made of green tape in every aisle — would actually stop the spread of the virus.
“I think they are doing the best they can to protect people,” said Julia Parker, 35, of Blue Hill. “They are doing a pretty good job.”