As the COVID-19 Chinese coronavirus increases its permeation throughout the country, Walmart announced Friday it is enacting new policies for its U.S. stores to protect its workers and customers by increasing social distancing by limiting the number of customers allowed in at one time and by marking some store aisles as ‘one way’.
The chain had previously cut store hours to facilitate cleaning and restocking in response to the virus and stockpiling by customers.
Walmart has also had to ration products in short supply, as this photo shows:
Text of the Walmart announcement by Dacona Smith, Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer, Walmart U.S.:
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In this taxing and uncertain time, our associates have gone above and beyond to help Americans get the food, medicine and supplies they need.
We care deeply about our associates’ health and well-being, and in recent weeks we’ve taken steps such as expanding our paid leave policies; closing our stores overnight for cleanings and restocking; installing sneeze guards and social distance markers in stores; beginning temperature checks; and starting to make gloves and masks available to associates who want them.
While many of our customers have been following the advice of the medical community regarding social distancing and safety, we have been concerned to still see some behaviors in our stores that put undue risk on our people. We want to encourage customers to bring the fewest number of people per family necessary to shop, allow for space with other customers while shopping, and practice social distancing while waiting in lines. We’re also seeing states and municipalities set varying policies regarding crowd control – which has created some confusion regarding shopping.
To promote health, safety and consistency for our associates and customers in this environment, we’re taking some further steps for our U.S. stores:
Regulating Store Entry
Starting Saturday, we will limit the number of customers who can be in a store at once. Stores will now allow no more than five customers for each 1,000 square feet at a given time, roughly 20 percent of a store’s capacity.
To manage this restriction, the associates at a store will mark a queue at a single-entry door (in most cases the Grocery entrance) and direct arriving customers there, where they will be admitted one-by-one and counted. Associates and signage will remind customers of the importance of social distancing while they’re waiting to enter a store – especially before it opens in the morning.
Once a store reaches its capacity, customers will be admitted inside on a “1-out-1-in” basis.
Shopping Inside the Store
We’ll also institute one-way movement through our aisles next week in a number of our stores, using floor markers and direction from associates. We expect this to help more customers avoid coming into close contact with others as they shop.
We’ll continue to put signage inside our stores to remind customers of the need to maintain social distancing – especially in lines. And once customers check out, they will be directed to exit through a different door than they entered, which should help lessen the instances of people closely passing each other.
We always want people to feel welcome at Walmart, and we know that in ordinary times a store is a gathering place for members of a community to connect and socialize. We look forward to the time when that is again the case; however, we now want to prioritize health and safety by encouraging customers to do their shopping at a distance from others, then head home.
As the COVID-19 situation continues to develop, our leaders and operations teams will continue to listen to advice from medical experts, associates and customers, and consider how we can best serve people while helping slow the spread of the virus. The health and safety of our associates and customers is what matters the most.