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Target and Kroger take social distancing to next level in war against coronavirus

Brian Sozzi
Editor-at-Large

Dr. Anthony Fauci should give the CEOs of Target (TGT) and Kroger (KR) an elbow bump next time they roll up to the White House for a presser on coronavirus attack efforts.

Because both essential retailers are leaving no stone unturned in the war to stop the spread of the deadly coronavirus. Target Chairman and CEO Brian Cornell told reporters on a media briefing the company is ramping up its social distancing initiatives. The discounter will have greeters stationed at each checkout lane ensuring customers are at least six feet apart, which is the current government recommendation. Checkout lanes will be cleaned after each transaction. Target is also temporarily halting product returns and the acceptance of reusable plastic bags, both of which could easily transmit the disease.

The company will continue with simple product door drops via its same-day delivery service Shipt as a means to avoid interaction.

FILE - In this Friday, March 20, 2020 file photo, a shopper leaves the Target Store on 34th St. with supplies as carpenter board up the Sephora story in New York. Target Corp. said Friday it will give a $2 an hour wage increase to its 300,000-plus workers who have been scrambling to help customers. The pay bump will be effective at least through May 2. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer, File)

Age of plexiglass and protective gear

As for Kroger, it said Tuesday it’s installing plexiglass windows at many of its registers to promote social distancing. Implementation is expected to occur over the next several weeks. Windows will also be added to Starbucks checkouts for stores inside of Kroger’s supermarkets.

Kroger is further allowing workers to wear protective masks and gloves.

“Our associates are on the frontlines, ensuring Americans have access to the food, services and products they need during this unprecedented pandemic. We are committed to protecting the health and safety of our associates. We’ve let our associates know they are permitted 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. 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,” a Kroger spokesperson told Yahoo Finance via email.

Cornell declined to say whether Target would be going as far as Kroger in installing plexiglass windows for cashiers or allowing face masks. A Target spokesperson told Yahoo Finance via email, “While we’re not supplying them, if a team member wants to wear a mask while working, they are welcome to do so.”

But who knows, if the outbreak continues at its current pace, all retail store cashiers may be enclosed in plexiglass windows.

Most retailers haven’t undertaken such measures. Instead, they have opted to close stores nationwide in a bid to flatten the coronavirus infection curve. But with deadlines to reopen major store chains approaching next week, many may be looking at the efforts by Target and Kroger as requirements if they want to stay open through the worst of the coronavirus.

Brian Sozzi is an editor-at-large and co-anchor of The First Trade at Yahoo Finance. Follow Sozzi on Twitter @BrianSozzi and on LinkedIn.

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