Maintaining social distance: Are stores taking CDC guidelines seriously?

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Updated: Friday, March 27, 3:31 p.m.

THURSDAY, March 26 — As executive orders continue to tighten restrictions on Michigan citizens and businesses, City Pulse has received emails praising some stores for playing along, and criticizing others for seemingly ignoring the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s recommended social distancing procedures.

Rite Aid appears to be the gold standard. The Haslett Road location had signs posted all across the store telling customers to stand 6 feet apart, and the floor space leading up to the counter was neatly dotted with blue X’s designating customers to stay separated while waiting in line. Customers are instructed to set purchases on the counter, which is routinely sanitized, and then take several steps back, allowing the cashier to ring up the items while maintaining the necessary distance. Customers then step back up to the counter to complete their purchase with card or cash. The cashier working during City Pulse’s visit had a mask and gloves on. This same level of scrutiny was observed at a Lansing Rite Aid located on Cedar Street.

The True Value Hardware next door to the Haslett Road Rite Aid had no social distancing signs posted. An email to City Pulse complained of people congregating close together in the store. A City Pulse reporter did not personally observe this, as the store had no customers during his visit. When asked about the lack of signs, True Value Hardware’s owner said employees were advised to maintain the 6 feet of distance from each other, and that he would post signs advising customers to do the same.

The X’s to separate customers waiting in line, which appear to be growing commonplace in Greater Lansing, were also observed at the Family Dollar and Dollar General on Cedar Street. Both stores also had several visible signs asking customers to stay 6 feet apart while shopping and waiting in line. Multiple Quality Dairy locations were also observed to have the X’s on the floor and signs posted across the store telling customers to stay 6 feet apart. Quality Dairy is also using plastic screens to separate customers from cashiers.

At the mini Target in downtown East Lansing, blue X’s made of painter’s tape prompt customers to stand a safe distance apart from each other in the checkout line. A sign displayed at the beginning of the line tells customers to “remember to maintain social distancing of 6 feet or 2 meters, per CDC guidelines.”

While the CVS in East Lansing did not have any markings on the floor, it did have another clever method of practicing social distancing. At the checkout counters, white folding tables are set up that force customers to stand a proper distance apart from their cashiers.

Folding tables at the pharmacy pickup and drop-off stations in the CVS included large bottles of hand sanitizer for customer use and informational signs about proper social distancing etiquette printed in bold black and yellow.

CVS also had to post signs warning customers that coronavirus testing is not available at their location. The sign said that CVS is working with health officials and will keep customers updated on details about actual testing sites as more information becomes available.

Efforts to curb irresponsible stockpiling seemed effective across the board. Both Target and CVS limit customer purchases on essential items like toilet paper and hand sanitizer.

A sign on the doors of Target asked customers to turn around if they felt ill, for the safety of the public. Very few people were shopping there this afternoon. Every shopper this reporter passed took great pains to stay 6 feet away.

The streets of East Lansing were deserted today, too. On a Thursday when — any other year — students would have flooded the sidewalks, hardly anyone was present. Parking garages sat empty or almost empty. Staples of East Lansing shopping like Curious Book Shop, Exscape Smoke Shop and Flat, Black & Circular will remain closed until further notice.

At the 7-Eleven on Grove Street in East Lansing, customers were told to place their items and subsequent payment on the counter while maintaining a safe distance. Like Target and CVS, 7-Eleven was nearly empty save for one or two rambling shoppers.

City Pulse also needs your support now more than ever. Advertising — almost all our revenue —  has fallen sharply because of closures due to the coronavirus. Our staff is working seven days a week to help keep you informed. Please do what you can at this time to contribute to the City Pulse Fund. All donations are tax-deductible.

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