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Kroger, H-E-B, Walmart, Target among Houston-area stores making changes to help stop the spread of COVID-19

Some stores have come under fire for allowing crowded aisles and groups of shoppers, and for continuing to sell non-essential items.

HOUSTON — In an effort to help stop the spread of COVID-19, several Houston-area stores are implementing new restrictions.

Some stores have come under fire for allowing crowded aisles and groups of shoppers, and for continuing to sell non-essential items.

Here's a breakdown of the changes. 

Kroger

Kroger updated its COVID-19 guidelines on April 6, including limiting the number of customers in stores. Under the new reduced capacity limits, only one person per 120 square feet will be allowed inside. Kroger will begin to monitor the number of customers per square foot in its stores using its industry-leading QueVision technology, which already provides a count of the customers entering and exiting stores.

Kroger's new customer capacity limits joins other measures the retailer has established over the last few weeks to promote physical distancing, including the addition of plexiglass partitions and educational floor decals and airing of a healthy habits message via in-store radio to encourage customers to practice good hygiene and spatial awareness.

Kroger stores have also recently implemented the following protective and preventive measures:

Protective Face Masks and Gloves for Associates
Associates are encouraged to wear protective masks and gloves. The retailer has ordered masks for associates nationwide, with supply starting to arrive in select regions and the anticipation of all locations having them by mid-April.

Associate Wellness Checks

The retailer started testing temperature checks in its distribution centers several weeks ago and is beginning to expand associate temperature checks to stores. Kroger and its affiliates are following local ordinances in cities or counties that mandate employee temperature checks, and associates may also request to have their temperature taken at work.

Piloting One-Way Aisles in Select Markets
The Kroger Family of Companies has started to test one-way aisles in select markets to determine its effectiveness as a measure to further support physical distancing.

H-E-B

"All H-E-B partners who work in our stores, warehouses, manufacturing and transportation facilities will be strongly encouraged to wear masks," H-E-B said in a statement on Friday, April 3. H-E-B said it will provide employees with masks and gloves for use while at work.

This effort also applies to Central Market, Joe V’s Smart Shop and Mi Tienda locations. 

H-E-B has created a dedicated leader in every store, the COVID Action Manager, who is trained to ensure sanitation and social distancing procedures are properly followed. 

Other previous actions include: plexiglass partitions at all checkstands; metered entry into stores; crowd control guidelines to manage customer traffic; and floor decals to help identify proper social distance.

Walmart

  • Walmart is now limiting the number of shoppers for each store. No more than 5 customers in a store for every 1,000 square feet inside. The associates 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.  
  • One-way aisles along with one designated entrance and exit will be implemented. 
  • Walmart is asking families to limit the number of people they bring with them to stores and all customers to follow social distancing guidelines.
  • Customers will be directed to an exit separate from the entrance.
  • Walmart recently shipped infrared thermometers to all their stores, which will soon start taking all employees' temperatures when they report to work. Stores will only allow people with a fever of 100 or higher back once they have been fever-free for at least three days.
  • Masks and gloves will soon be available for associates who want to wear them.

Target

  • Target will now limit the number of people allowed in each store based on the size of the building. When needed, a team member will help guests into a designated waiting area outside with social distancing markers, while others will guide guests inside the store and keep things moving quickly and conveniently.  "It’s another step to encourage social distancing, on top of the signage, floor decals and audio messages already in place at our stores," Target said.
  • There will also be no in-store returns or exchanges for at least the next three weeks to reduce the number of items employees are touching.
  • Target will also be giving masks and gloves to all of its employees and Shipt customers. They already had plexiglass partitions at checkout stations.

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Costco

  • Costco is trying to reduce the number of people inside its stores so no more than two customers per membership will be allowed inside.
  • The Costco food court has a limited menu but there is no seating.
  • To help limit personal contact and create more space for social distancing, Costco has reduced service in some departments. At some locations, there will be limited or no service at the Hearing Aid department, Costco Optical, the floral department and the jewelry department. Limitations vary by location. Costco members may continue to shop for some of these items at Costco.com.

Sam's Club

  • In addition to visual markers to support the 6’ guidance, Sam's Club is encouraging members to limit to no more than two people per membership enter the club at one time.
  • They will begin taking the temperatures of our associates as they report to work. Any associate with a temperature of 100.0 degrees will be sent home, asked to seek medical treatment if necessary, and told to not return to work until they are fever-free for at least 3 days. 
  • Masks and gloves will soon be available for associates who want to wear them.

Whole Foods

  • Temporary closure of Whole Foods hot bars, salad bars, soup bars and self-serve pizza
  • Seated restaurant venues & taprooms will close for in-store dining and will offer takeout only
  • Indoor and outdoor café seating will be temporarily unavailable
  • Self-serve offerings will be closed in additional departments, including antipasti & olive bars, acai machines and poke bowls    

Fiesta

  • Will provide employees with gloves and masks
  • Installed plexiglass partitions at checkout counters;
  • Implemented social distancing measures including: in-store crowd size control; store signage; reminder announcements to maintain 6 feet distance from others; floor markers to ensure spacing in lines that may form inside the store; employee assistance to remind all customers of social distancing (inside and outside store)