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More Retail Restrictions Arise Amid COVID-19 Surge

Several states have imposed new rules.

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Several states across the U.S. are imposing new restrictions on retailers and other businesses amid a surge in COVID-19 cases.

For example, in Rhode Island, Gov. Gina Raimondo on Thursday announced a “two-week pause” to begin Nov. 30. Among the restrictions, retailers will be limited to one person per 100 square feet or, in the case of big-box stores, one person per 150 square feet.

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“This is the key to our winter strategy,” Raimondo said. “During this time, we’ll be able to prevent overwhelming our hospital system without the need for a total lockdown.”

Johnna Devereaux of Fetch RI in Richmond, RI, said her initial thought was “that we will have to limit the store to either nine or 10 customers (depending on whether we have two or three employees on).

“It also means that I will need to have an employee on patrol if we near the person limit — having them man the door to keep people from coming in until some have left,” Devereaux said. “Weekends will be tough, but luckily we can use our new outdoor [holiday photo] set to distract people from minding the wait!”

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And in Maryland, Gov. Larry Hogan this week announced “immediate actions to prevent overburdening the state’s healthcare system and to keep more Marylanders from dying.”

Among the restrictions taking effect at 5 p.m Nov. 20: “Capacity at retail establishments and religious facilities will be reduced to 50%, bringing them into line with indoor dining and personal services businesses, as well as bingo halls, bowling alleys, pool halls, roller and ice skating rinks, fitness centers, and social and fraternal clubs.

“We are in a war right now, and the virus is winning,” Hogan said. “Now more than ever, I am pleading with the people of our state to stand together a while longer to help us battle this surging virus.”

Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker also announced restrictions that take effect Nov. 20.

WBEZ reports: “Retail stores can remain open but with only 25% capacity, while grocery stores and pharmacies can operate at 50% capacity.”

“To stop this spread and preserve some semblance of the holidays, all of us need to do more than just wear our masks now – though masks are mandatory throughout the state,” Pritzker said. “The simple fact is that COVID-19 is spreading so quickly and so widely, and our hospitals are beginning to experience real strain and at the current infection rate they will be overwhelmed. So whenever possible, we need you to stay home.

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“I’m hopeful that by limiting our in-person interactions, we will succeed at avoiding a stay-at-home order like what we had in the spring — when the choice between saving lives and saving livelihoods was even more stark. Tier 3 may allow us to do both. Like in other states like Michigan and California and Washington, it’s our best effort to avoid a stay-at-home order and save lives.”

In New Mexico, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham announced that the state “will temporarily re-enact a statewide order closing in-person services for all non-essential activities in order to blunt the unprecedented spike of COVID-19 illnesses and to attempt to relieve dramatically escalating strain on hospitals and health care providers across the state.” The restrictions are effective Nov. 16 through Nov. 30.

Notably, the New Mexico governor’s office “announced some big-box retailers such as Hobby Lobby and Ross Dress for Less will not be allowed to conduct sales in person” amid the new restrictions, according to the Santa Fe New Mexican.

The governor’s office explains that “essential businesses — such as grocery stores, pharmacies, shelters, child care facilities, gas stations, infrastructure operations and others — must minimize operations and in-person staffing to the greatest extent possible but may remain open for limited essential in-person activities.”

Washington state’s new rules include one stating that “in-store retail is limited to 25% indoor occupancy and must close any common/congregate non-food-related seating areas,” King 5 News reports.

“Washington state is still open, less restrictive then last time,” said Jennifer Braunschweig Larsen of Firehouse Pet Shop and Grooming in Wenatchee, WA. “Limited to 25% occupancy now, but grooming and self-wash are not affected this time fortunately. We are seeing another big spike in online sales and food purchases.”

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Meanwhile, Nancy Guinn of Dog Krazy in Fredericksburg, VA, noted that her state “is requiring masks for anyone over the age of 5 and enforcing social distancing and enhanced cleaning.

“We have been doing this the entire time so I’m not too concerned yet,” Guinn said. “But we do have a plan in case of another shutdown. We have already added another delivery vehicle and are prepared to add a fourth if needed. We have our delivery commercial in the works and are prepared to run all our businesses online. We can very easily swap to curbside/delivery or just delivery. It won’t help us during the holiday season, but it will help us keep our employees employed and hopefully cover all our business expenses.”

Matthew O’Leary, owner of Felix & Oscar in Springfield, VA, said he’s “expecting to go back to limiting our store to seven shoppers at a time (3,600 square feet) and still have all of our social distancing stickers on the floor, and masks required (we’ve only had two issues with that so far, knock wood), but preparing for potential all delivery and online ordering if necessary.

“My manager has made sure we have over 1,100 SKUs online, so pretty much every food and treat is available online, and of course we’ve kept our Curbside Pickup banner out front up every day since March,” O’Leary added.

Trace Menchaca of Flying M Pet Grocery in Houston, TX, said there’s been no clear mandate from the state or Harris County.

“However, every customer I’ve had wears a mask, and honestly everywhere I go everyone is in a mask,” Menchaca said. “So whatever happens I don’t think it will change anything. I am concerned about another shutdown, not really for my business but for friends in hospitality, hair, tattoo, etc. I just lost a friend to suicide yesterday so I’m concerned about how this is affecting everyone.”

Michelle Hornsby McConnell of A Natural Pet Pantry in Osprey, FL, stated: “Our governor has said he won’t shut down or require masks. We require masks in the store, and our customers appreciate it. We have actually gained customers from stores near us who weren’t requiring masks.”

Additional restrictions are emerging in Canada, noted Shannon Heitt of Wiggles and Whiskers Pet Supply in Saskatchewan.

“Our province has made masks mandatory in all indoor spaces as of Nov. 19,” Heitt said. “My town’s chamber of commerce has provided us with laminated posters to display in our windows and doors to let people know. So far it doesn’t seem to be too much of an issue for people, but we’ll see!”

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