SOUTHERN INDIANA — Stores in Southern Indiana have altered their operations for the safety of both workers and customers during the coronavirus pandemic, including adding visual aids to distance customers and increasing cleaning measures.

As they buy groceries and other essentials, customers have probably already seen tape or decals at checkout lines, pharmacies and elsewhere to help keep people six feet apart, and many stores have ramped up their sanitization efforts.

Kroger spokesperson Erin Grant said the grocery chain has implemented storewide policies regarding social distancing and sanitation to keep customers and employees safe, and stores are preparing to install Plexiglass partitions, or sneeze guards, between patrons and workers. Kroger will also add floor decals in stores to serve as a visual aid to remind customers to stay six feet apart.

Increased sanitary measures include more frequent cleaning of restrooms and commonly-used areas, cleaning shelves when restocking products, providing customers with disinfectant wipes upon entrance, supplying extra hand sanitizer to checkout stations/counters and wiping down carts, baskets and equipment, according to Grant.

Kroger is also encouraging employees to monitor their own health, providing hand sanitizer/tissues in meeting rooms and asking customers to stay home if they or someone in their household is sick.

Grant said although employees are allowed to wear protective gear while working, the grocery chain is unable to supply gear at this time, since personal protective equipment needs to go toward healthcare workers at present.

Plexiglass dividers are being installed, too, at Walmart stores’ pharmacy lanes, and they will be installed at regular registers over the next two to three weeks, according to a statement from Dacona Smith, the company’s executive vice president and chief operating officer. The stores are also installing the six-feet-apart decals at entrances and checkouts.

“Staying safe and healthy is more important than ever for our associates, our customers and for us,” he said in a statement on the company’s website. “Installing these barriers is another way Walmart is helping bring peace of mind that we are doing everything we can to keep our people and our stores safe.”

Angela Petkovic, spokesperson for Dollar General, said the company has set up protocols for how workers are to respond to both indirect and direct exposure to the coronavirus in all stores. Those directives will be updated as needed.

“For our employees, we are committed to providing a safe, healthful working and shopping environment,” she said in an emailed statement. “We are communicating with our employees on a regular basis to remind them of steps to help contain or avoid the spread of the COVID-19 virus, as well as steps they should take if they experience symptoms or have been in touch with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19.”

Dollar General stores also are adjusting hours during the pandemic. According to Petkovic, stores will remain open for normal hours, but they will close to customers an hour early to give workers more time to clean the store and restock shelves. The chain is also designating the first hour of operation to vulnerable populations, so they can avoid busier shopping periods.

Target has instituted new measures for cleaning and social distancing in its stores, as well. In a statement posted to the company’s website, Target Chairman/CEO Brian Cornell said stores will have employees stationed at the entrance to make sure carts are clean, and the stores have added signs and visual aids encouraging social distancing.

Employees are also instructed to clean checkout lanes after each transaction, and stores will rotate checkout lanes so those not in use can be deep-cleaned. For the next three weeks, stores are also suspending in-store product returns and exchanges, and employees will not handle reusable bags, and those who bring their own are asked to bag their items themselves.

Starting next week, the first hour Target stores are open on Tuesdays and Wednesdays will be reserved for elderly shoppers or those with underlying health concerns.

Meijer’s efforts include continuous cleaning and sanitation of stores and social distancing markers, according to a recent statement by Meijer President/CEO Rick Keyes. The stores are asking customers to restrict reusable bags to Shop & Scan purchases.

Meijer also is offering a specific shopping hour for vulnerable community members on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 7 to 8 a.m., as well as an hour for first responders and essential services workers on Mondays and Wednesdays from 7 to 8 a.m.

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