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Preventing coronavirus spread: Walmart, Kroger, Albertsons among grocers adding sneeze guards

Kelly Tyko, USA TODAY
Preventing coronavirus spread: Walmart, Kroger, Albertsons among grocers adding sneeze guards

Retailers have reduced store hours to make time for deep cleanings and now are adding a new layer of protection – sneeze guards.

Walmart and some of the nation's largest grocery store chains – Kroger and Albertsons – are installing plexiglass barriers or partitions to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus and protect both shoppers and store employees.

The protective screens will stand between a customer and a cashier so that any airborne droplets - either from a cough or a sneeze - will be blocked from hitting the person on the other side. 

"Staying safe and healthy is more important than ever for our associates, our customers and for us," Dacona Smith, executive vice president and chief operating officer, Walmart U.S., wrote in a blog post Tuesday. "Installing these barriers is another way Walmart is helping bring peace of mind that we are doing everything we can to keep our people and our stores safe."

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Walmart said it has started installing the barriers at pharmacies at Walmart and Sam's Clubs and will install the guards at regular Walmart registers over the next two to three weeks.

Smith also said Walmart is adding decals to promote social distancing on floors and has "found a new solution to help associates clean carts quicker and more thoroughly."

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Kroger said Tuesday it will add sneeze guards at supermarket checkouts at all of its more than 2,700 stores in the next several weeks. The grocer operates several regional supermarket chains in 35 states, including Fred Meyer, Harris Teeter, Ralphs, Mariano's, Fry's, Smith's, King Soopers, QFC and others.

"We anticipate every check lane having a partition, including pharmacy counters and Starbucks registers, within the next several weeks," said Kristal Howard, a Kroger spokeswoman, told The Cincinnati Enquirer, part of the USA TODAY Network.

Howard added educational floor decals will be added to promote physical distancing at check lanes and other counters. 

Albertsons Companies, which includes Safeway, said in a news release that the plexiglas will be installed in the checkout lanes at the company's more than 2,200 stores. 

Giant Foods announced Tuesday that it is in the process of "installing temporary plexiglass shields for higher-traffic areas, such as our pharmacies, cash registers, and customer service desks," the grocer said in a news release. The retailer operates 163 supermarkets in Virginia, Maryland, Delaware and the District of Columbia.

Contributing: Alexander Coolidge, Cincinnati Enquirer; Sady Swanson, Fort Collins Coloradoan

Follow USA TODAY reporter Kelly Tyko on Twitter: @KellyTyko

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Coronavirus prevention: Walmart, Kroger, Albertsons taking measures