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Nevada County eyes social distancing in stores

John Orona
Staff Writer

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The Union is hosting the next webinar in a weekly series addressing the questions and impacts of the coronavirus on Thursday, April 2 at 1 p.m.

This week’s webinar will focus on issues of mental health during the coronavirus outbreak. Topics include coping strategies during isolation, ways to access resources, and ways to recognize when individuals might be struggling with mental health.

Held in partnership with other Swift Communications newspapers, the session will feature three panelists from California and Utah:

Phebe Bell, Behavioral Health Director for the Nevada County Department of Health in Grass Valley.

Dr. Clint Purvance, President & CEO of Barton Health in South Lake Tahoe, Calif.

Deanna Rhodes, Executive Director of CONNECT Summit County in Park City, Utah.

The webinar will be streamed live on TheUnion.com/coronavirus and on the The Union’s Facebook page.

Many Nevada County residents hunkering down at home hoping to avoid the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic are still forced to face the potential spread of the virus each time they go out to conduct essential business.

However, county health officials are hoping to quell some citizens’ concerns by working with grocers to implement best practices for social distancing measures while shopping.

Last week, the Environmental Health Department began contacting some 20 grocery stores about guidelines they will need to follow to “bend the curve” and enforcement measures that may be taken if they aren’t.

According to county Environmental Health Director Amy Irani, grocers must limit the amount of patrons they allow in stores, mark check-out lines showing a minimum of 6 feet between customers, and discontinue any deli and hot food self-service.

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“Our retailers have done a phenomenal job,” Irani said. “They are really trying to stay open and are receptive to mitigating the risk for customers.”

Irani said most grocers have been receptive, though some smaller stores have been slower to adopt the recommendations.

When the county contacted the grocers last week, the focus was on check-out lines, sanitation between customer interactions at the register, installing barriers and limiting the clustering of people within stores, though as the COVID-19 crisis continues to evolve those guidelines may change and intensify.

Taking action

Some shoppers are calling for strict practices, both in the requirements mandated by health officials and in proactive action by businesses.

“I think their guidelines need to be stricter,” local shopper Dale Maier said. “I think there should be more mandated requirements, but (business owners) should care about our community enough to take that initiative.”

Irani said the county has received many complaints from the public who feel grocery workers should be wearing gloves and masks at work.

“The common thing we hear from customers is that they’re not wearing gloves, but they’re not required to,” Irani said. “Gloves and masks should be on the front lines with our health workers.”

Some grocers have stepped up policies by providing gloves and masks, enforcing capacity limitations, and creating separate bulk order processes. Irani pointed to BriarPatch Food Co-op and Safeway as examples of establishments going beyond county policies, which she said were the minimum protections that should be followed.

While guidelines from state and federal health agencies are likely to continue evolving, putting markets and county officials in a position to play catch up, Irani said her department will assess compliance daily and respond to community complaints.

“If we continue to get repeated comments from the public, we will head out, monitor and actively work with the operator on site to correct any issues,” Irani said.

To contact Staff Writer John Orona, email jorona@theunion.com or call 530-477-4229.


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