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A customer looks for scrubbing pads near empty shelves of cleaning supplies at a Publix Supermarket amid concern over the COVID-19 virus on Monday, March 9, 2020, in Pembroke Pines, Fla. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)

Coronavirus in Florida

Publix to start installing sneeze guards to protect employees from COVID-19

The barriers block air droplets from someone’s coughs or sneezes reaching the other person.

Some major retail chains are moving to install sneeze guards to help prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus, also known as COVID-19.

Florida grocer Publix announced it will start installing the plexiglass barriers this weekend at registers, customer service desks and pharmacies. The Lakeland-based company says it will take about two weeks to complete installation across its entire chain.

“We’re taking extra precautions for the well-being of our customers and associates,” said Maria Brous, a spokeswoman for Publix Super Markets Inc.

The decision came after Publix recently announced one of its employees in Cumming, Georgia tested positive for COVID-19.

“At Publix, the health and well-being of our associates, our customers and our communities remains our top priority,” said Maria Brous, director of communications, in a March 23rd statement. “Following our disinfection protocol and with the support of the public health department, the store is operating normal business hours. We are thinking of our associate and their family during this time and wishing them a swift recovery.”

Publix has also designated Tuesday and Wednesday mornings, from 7 – 8 a.m., as senior shopping hours for customers 65 and over.

Other large retailers are also installing the barriers. Walmart and some of the nation’s largest grocery store chains – Kroger and Albertsons — are also putting the partitions into place in their stores. 

Walmart announced it has started installing sneeze guards at its pharmacy lanes at both Walmart and Sam’s Club stores and says it will install guards at the regular Walmart registers over the next few weeks.

The protective barriers will stand between a customer and the employee so that any airborne droplets – from a cough or a sneeze – will be blocked from reaching the person on the other side. 

Walmart said it’s also adding floor decals in stores in entrances and in checkout lanes, making it easier for customers to practice social distancing. 

Publix has reduced its store hours to 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. so employees have extra time to devote to cleaning and stocking the shelves. Walmart has cut hours to 7 a.m. to 8:30 p.m.

Written By

Sarah Mueller has extensive experience covering public policy. She earned her bachelor’s degree in journalism in 2010. She began her career covering local government in Texas, Georgia and Colorado. She returned to school in 2016 to earn a master’s degree in Public Affairs Reporting. Since then, she’s worked in public radio covering state politics in Illinois, Florida and Delaware. If you'd like to contact her, send an email to sarah@floridapolitics.com.

3 Comments

3 Comments

  1. Marlene

    March 25, 2020 at 1:01 pm

    A great idea! And maybe a good time to train employees to not be wiping their
    noses and playing with their hair while handling customers’ items. That’s
    nothing new but now is a good time to address those disgusting and dangerous
    habits.

  2. Christopher Kennard

    March 25, 2020 at 2:53 pm

    It is my hope that those, like myself, who are above the age of 65 and believe or know they have the coronavirus, now called “Covid-19,” will not go to Publix or other stores between the hours designated for older folks to go shopping, which were set up in hopes keeping them out of crowds and away from Covid-19 contagious people, thereby preventing our elders from becoming ill while shopping.

    When I began to go shopping, after getting past the initial blast of the Covid-19 virus and was absolutely sure I was no longer sneezing or coughing, I wore clean gloves, stayed away from other shoppers and was very careful about passing money to the cashiers which was “clean” and not subject to giving the Covid-19 virus to anyone else. I got my money from the Publix ATM, using my clean gloves, and passed it along to pay for my groceries. You can also use your card at the cash register ATM in order to be safe, as well.

    When I next go shopping, I will ask the store manager to post a large sign up on the entrance glass doors to the store, asking those who do have the Covid-19 virus to please not to enter if they are still highly contagious, still sneezing or coughing.

    I also follow the practice of immediately washing my hands, taking a shower, washing my hair and laundering my clothes after getting home. This virus can be passed along on, from your hands, body and clothes just from walking in areas where people with an active Covid-19 infection.

    Since this virus can stay “alive and active” to contaminate people for up to 5 hours if on clothes, cardboard or metal surfaces, etc, and the very air we breathe may carry this virus for up to three (3) hours and infect us . . . it pays to be careful!

  3. Christopher Kennard

    March 25, 2020 at 3:32 pm

    It is my hope that those, like myself, who are above the age of 65 and believe or know they have the coronavirus, now called “Covid-19,” will not go to Publix or other stores between the hours designated for older folks to go shopping, which were set up in hopes keeping them out of crowds and away from any Covid-19 contagious people, thereby preventing our elders from becoming ill while shopping.

    Once your symptoms have passed, you are still likely to be contagious for up to five (5) weeks more. It is one of the reasons why this deadly virus is so easily passed along and why most folks will end up becoming infected with Covid-19.

    When I began to go shopping, after getting past the initial blast of the Covid-19 virus after the first week and was absolutely sure I was no longer sneezing or coughing, I wore clean clothes out the door, wore clean gloves, stayed away from other shoppers and was very careful about passing money to the cashiers which was “clean” and not subject to giving the Covid-19 virus to anyone else.

    I got my money from the Publix ATM, using my clean gloves, and passed it along to pay for my groceries. You can also use your card at the cash register ATM in order to be safe, as well.

    When I next go shopping, I will ask the store manager to post a large sign up on the entrance glass doors to the store, asking those who do have the Covid-19 virus to please not to enter if they are still highly contagious, still sneezing or coughing, if they have not done so already.

    I also follow the practice of immediately washing my hands, taking a shower, washing my hair and laundering my clothes after getting home from the store. This virus can be passed along on to others who touch you; from your hands, body and/or clothes — just from walking in areas where people with an active Covid-19 infection had been in while sneezing or coughing within the last several hours or touching door knobs, items on the shelves, rails, etc. with the virus on their hands.

    Three (3) hours is the timeframe for droplets infected with Covid-19 to remain “floating” in the air; five hours for touch something an infected person did, then touching your eyes or mouth, from where the virus can enter your body.

    Since this virus can stay “alive and active” to contaminate people for up to 5 hours if on clothes, cardboard or metal surfaces, etc, and the very air we breathe may carry this virus for up to three (3) hours and infect us . . . it pays to be careful!

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