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Not Today, COVID-19: Retail

Updated: Aug 11, 2020

Today, we begin a series of posts titled Not Today, COVID-19. These posts focus on prevention of COVID-19 for essential businesses and their patrons. We can all work together to protect each other and stop the spread of this disease one day at a time.

First, we will cover retail: grocery stores, pharmacies, and other similar businesses. The retail environment is very challenging for preventing disease spread because of the high flow of people into and out of the retail space, the high number of surfaces that are touched by multiple people, and the close proximity required for certain activities (i.e., payment).

Risk Assessment

The most important thing to do is to assess the risk of disease spread from the activities performed. The level of risk will dictate the controls necessary to prevent spread of COVID-19.

Low Risk Activities

  • Administrative duties in an area where the public cannot access and away from other workers

  • Working in stock rooms away from other workers and the public

  • Working after closing time when the public cannot access the store and away from other workers

Medium Risk Activities

  • Working in public areas of the retail store while following physical distancing requirements during business hours

  • Working in stock rooms where other workers are present and following physical distancing requirements whenever possible

High Risk Activities

  • Working at stations with close contact or prolonged contact with the public (e.g., cashiers, pharmacists)

Prevention Methods Based on Risk

First and foremost, make sure to follow all local public health orders for essential businesses. Some of the most common requirements for essential businesses include:

  • Social distancing plan for workers and the public

  • Cleaning and disinfection protocols for regular business operations and if a confirmed case was identified at the store

Recommended controls, regardless of risk, include the following:

  1. Encourage workers to stay home if they feel sick

  2. Implement physical distancing rules for workers and the public

  3. Require a face covering to be worn at all times by workers and patrons

  4. Promote hand hygiene by encouraging frequent hand washing and placing hand sanitizer in high traffic areas

  5. Establish cleaning and disinfecting protocols using EPA-approved cleaners

  6. Establish curb-side pickup or other processes that limit interaction between workers and the public

  7. Ensure constant air flow indoors and avoid recirculating air; air purifiers with HEPA filters can also be used

For medium risk activities, the following controls can be used:

  • Mark the floors to establish work areas or waiting areas that space people at least 6 feet apart

  • Establish work schedules to limit the number of people working at one time to allow physical distancing

  • Limit the number of patrons to allow physical distancing inside the store

  • Wear gloves when working with tools/equipment used by multiple users

For high risk activities, the following controls can be used:

  • Install barriers where workers interact with patrons in close proximity to prevent exposure (e.g., plexiglass barriers at cashier stands)

  • Wear face shields to prevent exposure to droplets

  • Switch to cash-less payment systems and do not handle patrons' credit/debit cards

If you have questions about your retail store and how local health orders affect your operations or how to implement disease prevention controls, contact us for a discussion about your situation.


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