Food retailers are one of the critical lifeline’s residents are depending on to help get them through the current COVID-19 event. And like many other businesses and retailers, they’ve had their challenges when it comes to ensuring their staff and customers are adhering to the social distancing measures.
“Now is the time for food retail owners and managers to be persistent by making sure customers and employees follow all the mandated social distancing measures when in operation and servicing customers,” states Ocean County Freeholder Gerry P. Little, liaison to the Ocean County Board of Health. “We know people want to get in and out as quickly as possible but people need to be patient and remember we are all in this together despite our varying needs.”
“We couldn’t be any more pleased that many food retailers have opened their stores early to accommodate our senior population and when social distancing is properly implemented, it can be an important strategy to reduce the spread of COVID-19, explains, Ocean County Freeholder Director Joseph H. Vicari, Chairman of Senior Services and County Operations.
Grocery Stores and Specialty Food Stores Executive Order No. 107 designated grocery stores and other stores that sell food goods as essential. The supply chain for these stores has not been disrupted and these stores are permitted to operate during their normal operating hours. These stores should continue to follow social distancing and hygiene best practices.
“The Ocean County Health Department (OCHD) is pleased so many food retailers are working hard to service their communities by staying open but we want to remind employees and customers it’s imperative not to compromise their health while working or shopping for food and supplies,” remarks Daniel Regenye, Ocean County Health Department Public Health Coordinator/Health Office. “Once again, we need everybody to participate in practicing safe distancing measures; just some of us following the rules won’t work. We need all the people that must be out buying provisions to think about their safety and the people around you and let’s try to mitigate the spread of the COVID-19 virus together.”
Regenye went on to recommend the following social distancing measures for food retailers:
• Consider reserving certain hours for senior citizens and other high-risk populations.
• Not permit staff who have symptoms consistent with COVID-19 (such as fever or a cough) to come to work.
• Train employees on ideal hygiene practices, including proper hand washing.
• Increase frequency of cleaning and sanitizing per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Environmental Cleaning and Disinfection guidance of all hard surfaces, including tables and counter tops that are being utilized by employees and patrons, as well as restrooms.
• Consider installing sanitizing stations for customers and staff throughout the store.
• Assist customers in keeping at least 6 feet of space between individuals or family groups while shopping and waiting in line.
• Eliminate foods put on display and sample foods and reduce self-service food stations.
• Consider posting signage to encourage customers to remain 6 feet apart and to promote proper hygiene.
• Individuals should not enter a retail facility if they have symptoms consistent with COVID19 (such as fever or a cough), have been diagnosed with COVID-19, or are undergoing treatment.
Regenye concludes with the reminder that social distancing is a measure that can really slow the spread of COVID-19 by limiting the opportunities for exposure. Health officials are confident that social distancing works. Without a vaccine for coronavirus, social distancing is still the best method to keep people from spreading the virus to others.
For more information on COVID-19 social distancing measures, visit www.ochd.org. OCHD has also set up a hotline number for residents and clinicians questions regarding the coronavirus. The number is 732-341-9700 ext. 7411.
You can also call the NJDOH hotline available around the clock for questions at 1-800-222-1222 or dial 2-1-1.