Omaha Mayor pleads with shoppers, grocery stores to practice social distancing

To protect seniors, pregnant women and immunocompromised people, several grocery stores have reserved time for them to shop. (MGN)
To protect seniors, pregnant women and immunocompromised people, several grocery stores have reserved time for them to shop. (MGN)(KOTA)
Published: Mar. 31, 2020 at 8:31 PM CDT
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The mayor put out a call for shoppers to spend less time in stores and more time social distancing. We spoke with an organization about what they recommend stores and shoppers do to improve safety.

Driving through a good portion of Omaha you’ll notice lots of active parking lots with shoppers coming in and out.

I spoke to the Nebraska Grocery Industry Association who says it’s on the shopper and stores to keep these essential services running smoothly.

Grocery stores are essential. They will stay open no matter the intensity of the pandemic. So keeping these areas as safe as possible relies on shoppers and stores.

Omaha Mayor Jean Stothert has been pushing this message.

“Staying home means lives saved we know that now and I’m pleading with people that are visiting and shopping in these crowded stores to not do it I’m pleading with the managers of the stores to please keep the crowds there and out,” said Stothert.

In Omaha, both Costco and Trader Joe’s have started doing just that. Once they meet their threshold inside the store, they operate on the one person out, one person in rule.

Kathy Siefken with the Nebraska Grocery Industry Association says this might not be the best strategy.

“When you limit the number of people in your stores it really does bring up other problems we want people to feel comfortable in our stores but we really don’t want to add to the additional problems to the shopping experience,” said Siefken.

Siefken says problems she anticipates is people not social distancing that is waiting in line, stores needing to hire additional security to keep lines in check, and employees now needing to do additional tasks to what is already expected of them

“You’re pulling those employees away from those key duties is probably not the best use of time,” said Siefken.

She says instead of stocking shelves and sanitizing they would be letting people in and out.

Instead, she recommends stores make isles one way and only open every other register to encourage social distancing.

Siefken says expanding store hours instead of limiting them will also help spread out the number of people inside a store at once.

It’s also recommended only one person does all the shopping for your family once a week. This will help cut down on crowd sizes and limits the number of people that could potentially be exposed.

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