Changing the way we shop Disinfected carts? Social distancing enforced? Mandatory hand-washing? It all depends on where you get your groceries

Grocery stores look a lot different than they did just a few short weeks ago.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 24/04/2020 (1013 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Grocery stores look a lot different than they did just a few short weeks ago.

Supermarkets have taken a range of initiatives to maintain safe distancing, and shoppers seem to be taking the challenge into their own hands as well – at this point, it is less common to see shoppers without some kind of facial covering than otherwise.

While the onus has largely been placed on grocery store owners to mandate social distancing, some are calling for the government to impose additional guidelines on stores to ensure a more consistent set of guidelines are met.

JOHN WOODS / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Clarchel Robles walks around the store and holds up a sign and kindly announces physical distance rules at Seafood City in Winnipeg Thursday, April 23, 2020. Seafood City have taken great steps to ensure the safety of their customers and staff.

)United Food and Commercial Workers Union president Jeff Traeger said the union, which represents over 17,000 workers including grocery store employees, have heard extensive concern from workers about the steps stores are taking.

“We have been fielding hundreds, literally hundreds of calls from our members expressing concern about the number of people in the stores at any one time, and the various protocols around COVID-19,” he said.

As a response, UFCW has written a letter to Premier Brian Pallister calling on the province to mandate several regulations for grocers to maintain, including creating and enforcing in-store customer limits, a limit of one person per cart and keeping only every second lane open.

UFCW has written a letter to Premier Brian Pallister calling on the province to mandate several regulations for grocers.

Traeger said while grocery managers have been proactive in introducing social distancing measures, government regulation would allow the province to enforce a clear set of guidelines.

“Some individual store managers have said, ‘Well, I don’t like the big line-up outside, so I’m just going to let everybody in and open all the tills and try to get them through as fast as we can,’” he said.

“And that, in our minds, just puts those people, the public and our members at risk. It’s impossible to social distance.”

Traeger said the union has yet to receive a response from the province, and UFCW will continue to monitor what store practices have been working “since the government’s not prepared to step in and play the role” and provide recommendations to store managers.

“Just as an example, if Sobeys, which also owns Safeway and IGA, comes up with a practice that’s working very well in their stores, we contact the people at Loblaw or Co-Op to say, ‘Why don’t you try this,’” he said. “And they’ve actually been very responsive to that.”

Here’s what some grocery stores across the city have set up to keep the virus at bay:

Seafood City (McPhillips Street)

Going ‘beyond the extra mile for everybody’s safety’

If you’ve got a fever, you won’t be allowed to shop at Seafood City.

That’s because the Asian specialty store requires all shoppers to submit to infrared temperature checks before they are allowed into the Garden City store.

If you’ve got a fever, you won’t be allowed to shop at Seafood City.

That’s because the Asian specialty store requires all shoppers to submit to infrared temperature checks before they are allowed into the Garden City store.

“People are not taking this lightly, and we wanted to take extra measures, extra effort, just to make our workplace safe for all of our employees, as well as for all of our shoppers who drop by here to buy essential items,” said Seafood City manager Mark Delda.

“It is just our company’s initiative to go beyond the extra mile, just for everybody’s safety.”

Employees at the Garden City grocer wear both masks and gloves, not the norm for most grocery stores in the city, and a code over the intercom has been set up to remind employees to switch gloves and wash their hands.

The decision to start taking temperatures of customers was put into place Monday, and employees must also have their temperature taken before they start their shift.

Delda was “happy to say” no customers or employees had to be turned away yet, but there is protocol if the situation arises.

“Once they reach 38 degrees or above, then we will politely inform them that we apologize, we can not let them in, because they have a fever,” he said. “We inform them to go home.”

These measures won’t be lifted any time soon, Delda said, and the store will only consider it after “there’s no more new cases, and then the no new cases are consistent every week.”

“Once there is a mandate from the government that it is already safe, there is no definite date when we are going to lift the extra measures,” he said.

The relatively new addition to Winnipeg’s grocery scene has particularly strict entry guidelines.

Signage on the entrance doors reminded customers that only a select number of customers would be allowed in at a time, and people with any kind of illness were not permitted in the store – something a worker at the doors would decide themselves.

Upon entry, customers are asked to consent to getting their temperature checked with what appeared to be an infrared thermometer.

Afterwards, hand sanitizer was provided and customers were required to follow a roped-off entranceway into the store.

All employees appeared to be in both masks and gloves, while checkouts that were open (many were closed, presumably to maintain distancing) were disinfected between shoppers.

JOHN WOODS / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Edwin Mendoza takes the temperature of store manager Mark Deld, at the entrance to Seafood City.



Superstore (Bison Drive)

JOHN WOODS / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Edwin Mendoza takes temperatures at the entrance of Seafood City.

Outdoor line-ups are the new norm at one of the city’s busiest chains, as workers let people in based on a shopper limit. One employee said he had been instructed that 200 people were allowed in the store at a time to ensure social distancing.

Hand sanitizer is provided upon entry to the store, which was obviously at its limit. Stickers by the open checkout lanes pointed out the six-foot spacing for people to maintain social distancing. People at checkout all wore gloves and some also wore masks.

Two uniformed police officers lingered near the exits. Superstore has regularly hired “special duty” officers in the past.



Food Fare (Maryland Street)

A hand-washing station is available to shoppers at this local grocer.

While stickers were placed on the floor to indicate a proper flow for shoppers to maintain, the smaller store made it naturally more difficult for shoppers to maintain spacing, and many were seen moving beyond the recommended directions.

The checkout workers, some behind plexglas barriers, were not wearing gloves or masks on one occasion but were wearing both gloves and masks during another visit.

MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Shoppers outside The Real Canadian Superstore on Bison Drive.



No Frills (Main Street)

A security guard monitored shoppers going in and out of the store. Stickers on the ground encouraged social distancing and directed the customer flow.

Checkout workers were wearing gloves and barriers were up at all checkout stations.



Walmart (McPhillips Street)

Even early on a weekday, a long line stretches outside the McPhillips Walmart. No smoking signs, signage with QR codes that lead to the chain’s safety procedures and signs asking that only one adult per family shop are hung across the outdoor railing.

People are openly breaking the latter request, with several groups of more than one adult let in the store.

The floors are marked with stickers and arrows to control shopper flow and maintain soclial distancing at checkouts. Glass barriers are up at checkout lanes and while all checkout staff are wearing gloves, the staff on the floor vary.

MIKAELA MACKENZIE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Signage outside of the Food Fare on Maryland Avenue.



Save-On-Foods (McPhillips Street)

Two-meters-apart decals adorned the floor by the checkouts of this busy Save-On-Foods. Both hand sanitizer and wipes to sanitize carts are provided for shoppers upon arrival.

Checkout workers were seen wearing gloves and lanes were closed to encourage distancing.

JOHN WOODS / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS People physical distancing at Walmart on McPhillips Street.



I.G.A. (Main Street)

Like other smaller grocery stores in the city, entry appeared to be unregulated. However, an employee at the entrance asked shoppers to use provided hand sanitizer before entering the store.

Stickers at checkout noted two-meter separations and arrows provided shoppers with an ideal flow of entry. However, the smaller store size appeared to make it more difficult for shoppers to maintain that flow and proper physical distancing.

Checkout employees were wearing gloves and plexiglas barriers have been installed.

Twitter: malakabas_

MIKAELA MACKENZIE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Floor decals encourage social distancing at the Save-On Foods.
Malak Abas

Malak Abas

Malak Abas is a reporter for the Winnipeg Free Press.

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