COVID-19: Requirements for masks, limited customer numbers go into effect
By ERIN ROLL
Montclair-area shoppers who need to run errands will need to remember to bring a mask with them as of today, and be prepared to wait in a line outside stores during busy periods.
On Wednesday, Gov. Phil Murphy issued an executive order requiring masks to be worn inside stores and other businesses, to help limit the spread of COVID-19. The order officially went into effect Friday morning, April 10.
Customers and employees must wear face coverings when inside a business, such as a grocery store or pharmacy, or in any other community setting, the order says.
People who cannot safely wear masks for medical reasons are exempt from the rule, as are children under two years old.
“If a customer refuses to wear a cloth face covering for non-medical reasons and if such covering cannot be provided to the individual by the business at the point of entry, then the business must decline entry to the individual, unless if the business is providing medication, medical supplies, or food, in which case the business policy should provide alternate methods of pickup and/or delivery of such goods,” the executive order states.
Furthermore the governor ordered that all essential retail must indefinitely limit the number of customers in their stores to 50 percent of their approved capacity.
"And if we don't see adherence to this, you can assume, as we have had with other steps, that 50 percent will go down," he said.
ON April 3, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention changed its position on masks and recommended that residents should wear non-medical, cloth masks as a measure to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. Previously, it recommended that only those sick with cold or flu-like symptoms wear masks.
The CDC has instructions on its website on how to sew a mask from elastic and cotton fabric, as well as no-sew methods using materials like old T-shirts.
The CDC recommends that cloth masks be washed and sterilized, depending on their frequency of use, and adds that washing the masks in a standard household washing machine is sufficient for this purpose.
Additionally, the CDC and the Office of the Surgeon General released a short video, in which Surgeon General Jerome Adams demonstrates how to put together a no-sew mask using rubber bands and the cut-off lower half of a T-shirt.
Ready-made cloth masks, or items that can be used as face masks, are also available for purchase from online retailers like Amazon, Walmart, Etsy, Custom Ink and Los Angeles Apparel.
Members of the public are urged not to buy surgical masks or N95 masks, since those are in short supply for medical workers.
Besides the masks, the order requires that retailers must “provide special shopping hours for high-risk individuals, erect physical barriers between customers and cashiers and baggers where practicable, and regularly sanitize areas used by their employees.”
All three grocery stores in Montclair already provide early-morning shopping hours for senior citizens and other people who may be at high risk for COVID-19. Many customers at the stores had already started wearing masks in the weeks leading up to the governor’s order.
Kim Yorio, a spokeswoman for Kings Food Markets’ New Jersey locations, said all of the state’s Kings stores had been providing associates with masks and gloves and enforcing social distancing before the governor’s announcement. The stores are taking additional steps too, she said, limiting capacity to 30 percent. And for stores with two entrances, one entrance will be closed off in order to control the flow of customers.
One challenge, she said, has been making sure customers understand the six-foot separation required for social distancing. Some customers are so anxious to get into the store and out again that they may not be paying attention to how close they are to other people, Yorio said. So as a reminder, store associates are being issued T-shirts to wear with messages on them about the six-foot distance.
All three grocery stores also have decals on the floor informing customers of the six-foot distance, or tape arrows directing the flow of foot traffic up and down aisles.
The three grocers, as well as CVS’s Montclair locations, already had installed Plexiglas barriers at checkout counters several weeks before the governor’s order. CVS also has tables set up in front of checkout counters in order to keep customers from standing too close, and the stores have orange tape on the floor to show where customers waiting in line can stand.
On Friday, customers could be seen waiting in line outside of Whole Foods on Bloomfield Avenue. And as of Thursday, ACME had signage outside of its entrances asking customers to line up during busy periods.