How grocery shopping has changed in the pandemic

Lots of grocery store chains are now hiring more workers to keep up with the crowds.

Lots of grocery store chains are now hiring more workers to keep up with the crowds.

BOSTON — Nearly all businesses across the state are shut down but the one place we can all still go is the grocery store.

The governor has announced some changes that he hopes will help keep people safe while they shop. At least one hour a day must be provided for adults 60 years old and older to shop alone. People can no longer bring in reusable bags. And all self-serve food counters must be shutdown.

Lots of grocery store chains are now hiring more workers to keep up with the crowds.

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We learned Thursday that Whole Foods and Stop & Shop plan to hire an additional 5,000 staff members. And that’s just one of the many changes being put in place to keep stores running smoothly. They’re also putting up markers six feet apart, some have installed plexiglass barriers between the cashiers and customers, and customers say there’s wipes and hand sanitizer available throughout the stores.

Since the COVID-19 outbreak first began, grocery stores have seen a huge increase in customers.

Roche Brothers vice president Arthur Ackles says it’s been hard to keep up with the rush.

“March 8, I think, is when it really started,” Ackles said. “We saw somewhere between 10 to 12 percent for the first few days increase in customers. By the weekend, it was up to 20 to 30 percent. It got as high as 200 to 300 percent at some points last week.”

To deal with more shoppers, many stores are closing earlier. This gives them more time to re-stock the depleted shelves and a chance to thoroughly disinfect the store.

“We’re doing cleaning all day, but it allows us to give the store a really good cleaning each night,” Ackles said.

Some shoppers like Laura Cucchi are also stepping up the sanitizing.

“I wear gloves when I shop throughout the store, and I wipe down the cart with disinfecting wipes,” she said. “When we get home we have kind of a process where we leave the bags outside, I shower and change my clothes, and my husband and I kind of tag team with wiping everything down and throwing out the bags.”

Per state orders, grocery stores and pharmacies now need to provide customers with ways to sanitize themselves, such as using hand sanitizer, or the items they come in contact with, such as grocery carts and baskets.

But are those steps necessary?

Some doctors say people should consider scrubbing their groceries with disinfectant before bringing them into the home. Produce should be washed or soaked in soapy water for at least 20 seconds, and, if possible, opt for a grocery delivery service. If you must go shopping yourself, some doctors suggest wearing gloves and only touching items you plan on buying.

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