After 40 days of a series of restrictive measures under the
stay at home order in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, on , the so-called
Phase 1 of North Carolina’s economic reopening began. It eliminates certain restrictions in places such as stores and supermarkets.
With more than 2,500 Latinos infected with coronavirus as of , what measures are Latino supermarkets implementing to protect their employees and customers?
Phase 1 of reopening allows stores and supermarkets to operate their establishments at 50 of their maximum capacity (previously it was 25).
Under Governor Roy Cooper’s order, these businesses are required to direct their customers to stand 6 feet apart. They are also required to do frequent cleanings. In addition, the use of masks is recommended, but not mandatory.
The case of Compare Foods
Compare Foods is the area’s largest Latino supermarket chain, and it is frequently visited by families in this community because of its great selection of products from Latin America and the Caribbean.
Compare Foods has followed all the recommendations made by Governor Roy Cooper and also all the instructions of health authorities, said Osiris Collazos, head of marketing and public relations for Compare Foods.
Gloves and masks
When we visited some of these establishments, there were some obvious safety protocols in place. At the store located at 818 E. Arrowood Rd. in Charlotte, for example, employees directed customers to enter through one door and exit through another.
During our visit we observed that all employees-- those at the cash registers, those doing cleaning, and even those arranging products—were wearing gloves and masks.
The aisles were marked with one-way arrows so that customers did not get close to one another. There were also multiple signs announcing certain cleaning protocols in both English and Spanish.
A creative solution
Compare Foods is not restricting the entry of customers who are not wearing masks. In fact, during our visit we noticed that a little less than half of the people shopping there were not wearing masks. So how can the store protect workers and other customers?
The supermarket chain implemented three measures to address this problem:
- In front of each cash register, there are marks on the floor that indicate the 6-foot distance that customers must maintain between each other while they wait in line.
- In front of each cash register, there is a large plastic shield that separates cashiers and baggers from customers.
- Additionally, the employees at the checkout area wear clear plastic face shields. They said these allow them to better interact with customers.
We have installed shields on the cash registers to prevent employees from having direct contact with customers. Our employees have their shields in case someone is not wearing a mask, Collazos added.
Compare Foods’ prevention model also extends to a change in their hours of operation, which allows staff more time to clean the store thoroughly.
Before, we were open from 7:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. Now we are open from 8:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m., Collazos said.
This is because we are doing extra cleaning of the supermarket, more so than before. So, from 9:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. at night, we clean everything, and we also do this when we open in the morning.
Esta historia fue producida por Charlotte Journalism Collaborative, una asociación de seis compañías de medios que trabajan juntas en un esfuerzo iniciado por Solutions Journalism Network y financiado por The Knight Foundation.