Despite limiting capacity, requiring face masks, and adhering to social distancing measures, grocery store workers are still finding themselves in close contact with the coronavirus amid the outbreak, leaving experts to wonder if it's time for curbside pickup and delivery options only
Marc Perrone, president of the United Food and Commercial Workers' union, says "careless customers" are "probably the biggest threat" to grocery story employees right now, with many brushing by workers by perusing the aisles of stores, CNN reports.
Now, worker experts are wondering if it's time for grocery stores to go "dark," allowing only for curbside pickup and delivery options for those seeking groceries.
John Logan, professor and director of Labor and Employment Studies at San Francisco State University, says, "Anything that reduces the need for interaction with the public and allows for greater physical distancing will ultimately better protect grocery workers. Shuttering stores and repurposing them for pickup and delivery only would be a positive step."
Some small, independent stores have already adapted this model for the safety of their employees.
While public safety officials have not ordered essential businesses, including grocery stores, to close, the US Labor Department advised last week that retailers opt for a drive-through or curbside pickup model.
However, some companies say that this shuttering of grocery stores wouldn't actually be possible.
Ordering systems for online and curbside pickup would become overwhelmed with customers trying to buy. Additionally, this would require a need for more grocery store workers on the premises, perhaps defeating the purpose of removing the public from the stores.
"We have no choice. They have to stay open. [America's grocery] delivery system has not matured to the point where we can switch to an entirely remote system," said Seth Harris, former deputy secretary of labor during the Obama administration.