Local governments around the US are taking more draconian measures to prevent the spread of the coronavirus by barring “essential” stores such as grocery chains or big-box retailers from selling “nonessential” items such as clothing and electronics.
These stores, which have been allowed to stay open during state lockdowns because they sell groceries or offer pharmacy services, for example, are now required in some parts of the US to remove nonessential items or rope off areas of the store so customers can’t access these products.
Vermont is among those clamping down on this. At the end of March, the state’s Agency of Commerce and Community Development directed essential big-box stores including Walmart, Costco, and Target to stop selling nonessential items not listed in the governor’s executive order outlining essential services.
“Large ‘big box’ retailers generate significant shopping traffic by virtue of their size and the variety of goods offered in a single location,” Lindsay Kurrle, the secretary of the agency, said in a statement at the time.
She added: “This volume of shopping traffic significantly increases the risk of further spread of this dangerous virus to Vermonters and the viability of Vermont’s health care system. We are directing these stores to put public health first and help us reduce the number of shoppers.”
Customers can shop for these nonessential items using online delivery services or curbside pickup, Kurrle said.
The Board of Commissioners in Howard County, Indiana, enforced a similar rule earlier in March, preventing businesses in the area that were deemed essential from selling nonessential items.
The board said it had received complaints from businesses that were forced to close because they sold mostly nonessential items saying it was unfair for other stores to continue selling these products.
Retail workers in the area also complained that customers were congregating in stores and browsing nonessential goods because they were “bored at home,” thus filling up the aisles and putting workers at greater risk, the board said.
There have been reports elsewhere of other counties putting similar rules into play. While some people said they disliked the new restrictions, others applauded the change and encouraged other local governments to do the same.