Grocery stores add sneeze guards to protect cashiers from coronavirus

Some of the nation’s largest grocery store chains are installing sneeze guards to help protect their cashiers from the coronavirus.

Walmart, Albertsons, Whole Foods and other grocers say they are putting up Plexiglas shields in checkout lines to block virus-containing droplets from the nose and mouth from flying between clerks and customers.

Walmart plans to install the barriers at its cash registers over the next two to three weeks, Dacona Smith, executive vice president and chief operating officer at Walmart US, said in a Tuesday announcement. The guards have already been placed at pharmacy lanes in Walmart and Sam’s Club stores, she said.

Kroger, the nation’s biggest supermarket chain, has reportedly begun to install sneeze guards at all cash registers, pharmacy counters and Starbucks cafe stands. Every checkout lane should have a partition “within the next several weeks,” company spokeswoman Kristal Howard told the Cincinnati Enquirer.

Amazon-owned Whole Foods is working to install barriers at all of its locations, of which it has about 500 in the US, Canada and the UK, CNN reported. And Idaho-based Albertsons plans to add sneeze guards at its more than 2,200 stores over two weeks, the company said last Friday.

“This is an extra step to protect our associates who are in constant contact with the public and provide our customers with extra reassurance as well,” Albertsons president and CEO Vivek Sankaran said in a statement.

Meijer, a regional retail chain with 248 stores across the Midwest, will join the effort when it starts to install shields in checkout lanes next week, according to a Wednesday news release. The Michigan-based company said it has also marked checkout lines with X’s placed six feet apart to encourage shoppers to keep their distance from each other.

Grocery workers have been on the front lines of the coronavirus crisis, as supermarkets are among the essential businesses that have remained open even in states that have imposed lockdowns to stop the disease from spreading.

There’s no evidence to show the disease has been spread through food; it is generally transmitted through respiratory droplets from coughs or sneezes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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