The coronavirus pandemic has exposed a new kind of essential worker — those who are stocking the shelves and bagging our groceries.
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For these workers, social distance is not an option. The constant interaction with customers and crowded stores can put them at risk of contracting the virus.
Last week, an employee at a Whole Foods in Fort Lauderdale tested positive for the new coronavirus. This is the only known Broward County case of a grocery store employee contracting the virus. Details about the case aren't clear, but the employee is in quarantine, representatives from the grocery store chain told the Sun Sentinel in an email.
Most stores don't require or even encourage their employees to wear personal protective equipment, such as face masks and gloves. The Centers for Disease Control recommends that masks be worn only by health workers or if the person is sick.
Only those who work in prepared food environments are required to wear gloves, according to the Food and Drug Administration's Food Code.
Here is more detailed guidance that Publix has shared with its employees:
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
- Stay home from work if you have cold-like symptoms until at least 72 hours have passed without symptoms, including a fever (100.4 F or greater).
- Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze and throw it away after you use it. If you don’t have a tissue, sneeze into your elbow rather than your hand.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands; germs spread this way.
- Wash your hands often with soap and water, including after coughing or sneezing. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.
- Clean and disinfect all high-touch surfaces every day. High-touch surfaces include counters, tabletops, doorknobs, bathroom fixtures, toilets, phones, keyboards, tablets and bedside tables.
In addition, Whole Foods has suspended all self-serve food services and all in-store dining.
To keep yourself safe, here are somethings Dr. Joshua Lenchus, the regional medical director at Broward Health Medical Center, shared with the Sun Sentinel.
- Head to the grocery store during off-peak hours, usually as soon as they open.
- Order your groceries online and have them delivered and use the order ahead and drive-up services.
- If you do venture into a store, wipe down your shopping cart with disinfectant wipes.
- Avoid crowded aisles.
- If you can, leave the kids at home to limit the number of people in the store.
- As soon as you get home, wash your hands.