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Experts suggest grocery stores move to pickup and delivery only

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Posted at 5:01 PM, Apr 20, 2020

Could our grocery shopping experience look a lot different in the near future?

Some labor experts are suggesting grocery stores consider closing their doors to customers and instead offering only curbside pickup or even delivery to get the essentials.

Joshua Maez works for Instacart. He goes to the grocery store and picks fresh produce and items for customers. He thinks enough is being done to protect store employees.

"You have employees wearing masks," Maez said. "You have the employees wearing gloves. You have the plastic shields. I mean there's not much more you can do."

Other precautions include putting up Plexiglass separators between employees and customers and also, restricting how many people shop inside at a time.

"Like today, they were actually going around and wiping off the handles of the freezer cases," said Local Shopper, Signe James. "That's something I hadn't seen them doing."

Still, the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union, which represents employees at stores like Ralphs and Albertsons, says 85 percent of grocery workers reported that shoppers are not practicing social distancing.

One suggested solution is for large chain grocery stores to go dark and convert to curbside pickup and home delivery only.

"It's more of an inconvenience than we have now that's for sure. I'd have a hard time handling it," James said.

"I just like convenience of going into the store," said Local Shopper, Greg Weir.

The union says at least 30 grocery store workers across the country have died from COVID-19 and at least 3,000 stopped working because they showed symptoms or had been exposed.

"Definitely be cautious," Weir said.

So, could turning off the lights be too drastic in our own backyard?

"I just don't know if its warranted in SLO County," Weir added.

San Luis Obispo County Public Health sent KSBY the following statement:

"It is very important for people to be able to get healthy food during this pandemic, so we would not want to see grocery stores close. In fact, because our community has done such a good job at observing physical distancing and other safety measures, we have been able to flatten the curve locally, and are beginning to look at ways we can implement a phased re-opening of many services that have been closed for the past month. More information about these re-opening measures will be coming in the next week or two.

In the meantime, many of our local grocers have done a great job at implementing physical distancing measures and additional cleaning and sanitizing procedures. We would encourage these types of measures to continue, so as to keep grocery store workers and those using the stores safe."

The U.S. Labor Department and the California Department of Industrial Relations have also recommended that retailers start offering curbside and online orders.

We also reached out to Santa Barbara County Public Health. The department said:

"We understand the serious concern to protect workers in grocery stores from undue exposures to COVID-19. However, we are hopeful that we are succeeding in our effort to slow the spread of COVID-19 by what we have seen in our surveillance data and personal experience here in Santa Barbara County. We are encouraged by various grocery stores being very diligent in ensuring a safe environment, such as limited people in the store, required masking for everyone, sanitizing the carts and checkout stations, symptoms check, and the use of Plexiglass barriers."