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Governor calls for changes to better protect grocery workers, customers

He asked the companies to provide hand sanitzer throughout the stores and suggested they illustrate proper social distancing with floor markers.

DENVER — Colorado's governor called for grocery stores to make changes to better protect customers and employees as we deal with the coronavirus pandemic.

Grocery stores, of course, are essential and must remain open while other business places are being shut down to help slow the spread of COVID-19.

In a letter to the owners of King Soopers, City Market, Safeway and Albertsons, Gov. Jared Polis (D-Colorado) applauded efforts that had already been made but asked that more be done to protect everyone's health.

> The video above details 'senior hours' at grocery stores.

Cases of COVID-19 were first reported in Colorado on March 5 and the number of positives cases has continued to rise.

RELATED: Colorado coronavirus latest March 23-25: Stay-at-home orders issued

Here are the recommendations made by Polis:

  • Prioritize providing things like gloves, masks, face screens and other protective equipment (although he acknowledged some of those items are in short supply at this time).
  • Provide an adequate supply of hand sanitizer and soap at check stands, restrooms, entrances and throughout the store.
  • Implement longer public hours to disperse traffic. Polis suggested longer hours with closures in the morning and evening for restocking and cleaning. For example, a store might open from 5 a.m. to midnight instead of  6 a.m. to 9 p.m. but close between 9 a.m. and 10:30 a.m. and 8 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. for cleaning and restocking.
  • Consider expanding delivery with priority to those at highest risk.
  • Establish exit/entrance controls to make sure crowds are able to be in compliance with proper social distancing (six feet apart, which some stores are already doing).
  • Assign high-risk employees to tasks with the lowest risk to the extent possible (backroom work, receiving, etc).
  • Implement visual cues where people line up, such as at the checkout, that illustrate the proper social distancing (such as marks on the floor showing six feet).

> Polis' full letter can be viewed here.

Albertsons and Safeway statement

Albertsons and Safeway announced Tuesday that they're installing designated waiting points through floor markers positioned throughout the store, especially at check stands and stations where people most often congregate, like the service deli, bakeries and pharmacy areas. 

RELATED: Senior hours: Colorado grocery stores make adjustments amid coronavirus outbreak

Tape has been installed at all stores in the Denver division, which includes 124 stores in five states. That tape will soon be replaced by more permanent floor decals.

Credit: Safeway

Customers will also be asked to wait until the customer in front of them has finished collecting their groceries before unloading their groceries at the check stand, according to a company spokesperson.

RELATED: Safeway stores add 'sneeze guards' to checkout counters

The goal with the protocol throughout the store is to follow guidance from the CDC to prevent customers from being within six feet of any other person for more than 10 minutes.

King Soopers statement

King Soopers said it's permitting associates to wear protective masks and gloves. 

"There is a national shortage of personal protective equipment like this, and we fully support America’s health care workers having first priority to obtain the equipment they need," King Soopers said. "We are advocating to government officials at all levels for help securing a priority place in line for all grocery workers — after health care workers — to have access to protective masks and gloves."

King Soopers also said it is continuing to enhance daily sanitation practices, including cleaning commonly used areas more often like cashier stations, self-checkouts, credit card terminals, food service counters and shelves.

The statement also said it's installing plexiglass partitions at many cash registers to further promote physical distancing, with the installation process beginning next week.

"We anticipate every checklane having a partition, including pharmacy counters and Starbucks registers, within the next several weeks," the statement says. "In addition, we are installing educational floor decals to promote physical distancing at checklanes and other counters."

Over the weekend, King Soopers announced that it was enacting emergency leave guidelines to include paid time off for self-isolation and symptoms as verified by an accredited health care professional. This expands the new guidelines, announced on March 14, which allows paid time off for associates diagnosed with or placed under quarantine due to COVID-19. In each scenario, all associates will be eligible to receive their standard pay for up to two weeks (14 days). 

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