How grocery stores are trying to help slow the spread of COVID-19

If all this sheltering is new to you, imagine what grocers are now doing to avoid the spread of the coronavirus.

While there are no guarantees that customers or employees won't catch the virus, each chain and individual store realizes that their long-term survival depends on keeping things as clean as possible.

We found that grocery shoppers are still out there in force, doing their best to hunker down. However, some seem to be overdoing it.

An email, sent to millions of customers by the chief executive officer of Albertsons Companies outlines what that massive grocery holding company, the nation's second largest, says it is doing to protect customers and employees.

The company operates 2,660 stores, employing 275,000 people under 18 brands including Safeway, Albertsons, Andronico, Pack 'n Save, Vons and Pavillions in California.

First, the company says it's taking enhanced measures, throughout the day, to clean and disinfect all departments with special emphasis being taken on restrooms and frequently touched points of the store. At the end of each business day, the company says it is deep cleaning each store.

Albertsons says cart wipes and hand sanitizer stations at key locations are maintained. It encourages customers to wash or sanitize their hands before entering and leaving the store.

Most customers are requested to stay away Monday through Friday from 7 to 9 a.m. so that seniors and vulnerable people can shop during those hours.

"I know that I try very much to pick things up with determination and not try to fondle any kind of produce or products," said shopper Kat Bennett.

The CEO of Kroger, the nation's largest grocery chain, posted this statement. "In many locations, we've adjusted our hours to allow our store's teams time to rest a little, clean and get new products in and on the shelves for our customers said," Kroger Chain CEO Rodney McMullen.

Albertsons companies grocery delivery, pharmacy delivery and drive-up & go services are available. For home delivery customers, the company says it has created "Contact Free" delivery procedures for its team. 

The required signature processes is now being done by delivery drivers on request.

The return policy is temporarily suspended, so stores will not accept returns at this time.

For employees, those diagnosed with COVID-19, will receive two weeks of replacement pay while they are unable to work. If employees are unable to return to work after two weeks they can use available sick leave pay or short-term disability. Beyond that, any employee who is asked to self-quarantine by their health care provider or the company, based on current Centers for Disease Control and Prevention risk guidelines, will also get up to two weeks of replacement pay while they are unable to work.

All in all, it's a huge change for all of us. "Be patient. Be kind to one another. Be kind to our associates. Shop responsibly and purchase what you need and knowing that we will continue to replenish," said Kroger's McMullen.

It's important that you know that 40% of grocers are small retailers with Walmart, Kroger and Alberstons companies accounting for another forty percent. Midsize retailers such as Whole Foods and Trader Joe's make up the rest.