If Your Grocery Store Doesn't Have This, Don't Go Inside, CDC Says

This simple addition could help keep you safe from COVID while shopping.

Even if you're being extremely careful to protect yourself from COVID by staying home, avoiding crowds, and opting for takeout, you likely still have to hit the grocery store from time to time. While wearing a mask and maintaining six feet of distance between you and other shoppers can help keep you safe, people have still gotten sick despite these precautions—and the emergence of more infectious strains makes that even likelier. There are some essential steps grocery stores can take to help keep you healthy, and you should reconsider trusting them if they don't have one specific precaution in place. Keep reading to find out what your grocery store needs to have for you to shop there safely, and for more locations to avoid, The CDC Says Don't Go to These 4 Places Without a Better Mask.

Grocery stores need to have a capacity counter at the entrance.

Capacity counter

If your grocery store doesn't have a capacity counter at the entrance, you might want to move on to another store. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that grocery stores should "control the flow of traffic into the establishment by ensuring that maximum capacity plans are adjusted and managed at the front door." Doing so will help maintain a safe environment for employees and shoppers, according to the CDC. And for essential vaccine guidance, If You Take This Common Medication, Talk to a Doctor Before Your Vaccine.

Capacity limitations can easily be exceeded without someone standing watch.

A young woman in a disposable face mask is checking a shopping list on a smartphone while there is another woman with shopping cart background
ANRproduction / Shutterstock

Without an employee counting how many people have entered and exited the establishment, there's no way to guarantee that the store is adhering to capacity limitations, which could affect your ability to social distance once inside.

"Safety is not guaranteed [if there is no capacity counter], as there is no way to confirm if it is too crowded in the store to prevent adequate social distancing," said infection control practitioner Erica Susky. And for insight into life in the near future, Dr. Fauci Says It's Safe for You to Do This Once You're Vaccinated.

Even if there is a capacity counter, you still have to take other precautions when shopping.

Woman wearing mask shopping in grocery store

While a capacity counter is a good indication that the store is taking precautions and you'll be able to safely distance inside, it doesn't automatically mean you're in the clear. "It remains critically important that we continue to wear masks, social distance, be cognizant of touching common surfaces, washing one's hands, and not going out if you feel sick," said infectious disease specialist Javeed Siddiqui MD, MPH, chief medical officer at TeleMed2U.

As long as you adhere to all public health measures, you have a very low risk of catching COVID. "If you and the other people in the store are wearing masks, the probability of COVID-19 transmission is pretty low," said physician assistant Ben Tanner. "And if it did happen, it would probably … cause a much less severe disease." And for a look at the future of the pandemic, COVID Will Be "Mostly Gone" By This Date, Johns Hopkins Doctor Says.

There are other precautions your grocery store should take to prevent the spread of COVID.

People standing waiting in line far apart to maintain social distance distancing during covid-19 coronavirus outbreak with mark cross signs on sidewalk pavement by grocery food store shop shopping

The CDC suggests that grocery stores institute measures to physically separate people. Next time you're in your local grocery store, look for partitions at checkout lanes, make sure every other cashier is closed, and check for indications on the floor of where to stand during checkout to maintain social distancing. And for more safety tips you need to know, If You Smell This in Your Car, Your Health Could Be in Danger, Study Says.

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