First, many states ordered non-essential businesses to close amid the coronavirus outbreak. Now, several states are taking things one step further and limiting what essential businesses — grocery, hardware, and convenience stores, mostly — can sell during this unprecedented time.
Some local governments in places like Vermont, Michigan, Indiana, Colorado, and Missouri have banned retailers such as Walmart, Costco, and Target from selling non-essential items. Vermont, in particular, made headlines last week when they ordered ordered "big-box retailers to cease in-person sales of non-essential items," which include arts and crafts, beauty, clothing, consumer electronics, entertainment (books, music, movies), carpet and flooring, furniture, home and garden, jewelry, paint, photo services, sports equipment, and toys. While customers can still purchase these items online, by phone, or through curbside pickup, their hoping this new order, which was put into effect on March 31, will reduce traffic in stores.
In a recent press release, Agency of Commerce and Community Development Secretary Lindsay Kurrle said:
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 by requiring on-line ordering, delivery and curbside pickup whenever possible, and by stopping the sale of non-essential items.
Michigan is the latest state to implement similar policies: Starting April 10, large stores must close areas dedicated to furniture, carpeting, plant nurseries, paint, and garden centers. "If you're not buying food, medicine, or other essential items, you should not be going to the store," Governor Gretchen Whitmer said in a public address on April 9.
Summit County, Colorado put similar policies in place on March 23: "In order to discourage public gatherings and overcrowding, establishments meeting the definition of grocery, pharmacy, pet food store, or hardware store may sell only those items included in those categories i.e. stores shall cordon off and not allow sales of items other than pharmaceuticals, groceries including essential goods and services such as cleaning products, pet food and supplies, or hardware," Summit County Public Health Director Amy Wineland wrote in an addendum.
These orders align with the White House's recent recommendation to only take trips to the grocery store and pharmacy when absolutely necessary. During a press conference on Sunday, April 5, Coronavirus Response Coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx urged Americans to take this recommendation seriously: "The next two weeks are extraordinarily important. This is the moment to do everything that you can on the president's guidelines. This is the moment to not be going to the grocery store and not be going to the pharmacy – but doing everything you can to keep your family and your friends safe."
For helpful resources regarding the coronavirus, visit The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Coronavirus Disease 2019 fact page and The National Association of County and City Health Officials' directory of local health departments.
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