Grocery shopping over the last two years has had its share of challenges, from dealing with shifting COVID restrictions and trying to avoid getting sick to shortages that kept popular products off shelves. Through it all, Publix has continued to attract loyal customers to its more than 1,200 locations across the Southeast. Now, fans of the supermarket chain can expect a major change to their shopping experience—and it could be good or bad news, depending on your perspective. Read on to find out what Publix is getting rid of in stores.
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Publix is getting rid of plastic barriers in stores.
Publix has started stripping stores of their plastic barriers, the Orlando Sentinel reported on March 14. The grocery chain initially began to put up the guards in late March 2020 as a response to the spread of COVID. According to The Florida Times-Union, Publix installed the plexiglass partitions at cash registers, customers service desks, and pharmacies in all of its locations two years ago.
But Publix’s website has not yet been updated to inform shoppers that the barriers are being removed from stores. “Plexiglass partitions were installed in our checkout areas, customer service and pharmacies companywide. This barrier between cashiers and customers, in addition to frequent disinfections in high-touch surface areas, offers extra protection for customers and associates,” the company states online. “We continue to monitor guidance from the CDC and adjust policies and procedures when appropriate.”
The retailer is removing these partitions as a response to COVID’s decline.
Publix’s decision to remove this COVID precaution from stores comes as virus-related numbers have been falling in the U.S. Since the height of the Omicron variant surge in January, coronavirus cases, hospitalizations, and deaths have steadily dropped over the last two months. In just the last week, infections have declined by more than 28 percent and hospitalizations went down by over 27 percent, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
“As a result of the decrease in COVID-19 cases and wide availability of vaccines, Publix is removing the clear plastic shields from registers, customer service desks and pharmacies,” Maria Brous, a spokeswoman for Publix Super Markets Inc., confirmed to the Orlando Sentinel on March 14, adding that the barriers started to be removed in some stores last week.
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This isn’t the first COVID precaution Publix has gotten rid of recently.
It’s not just the plastic barriers either. Publix has slowly been stripping back some of its COVID protection measures over the last few months as the spread of the virus stalls. In mid-February, the supermarket chain dropped its mask mandate for fully vaccinated employees, Fox 35 Orlando reported.
“As a result of the decrease in COVID-19 cases and wide availability of the vaccine, fully vaccinated associates have the option not to wear face coverings beginning Feb. 14, 2022, unless required for their job duties or by a state or local order or ordinance,” Publix wrote in an update to its website at the time, per the news outlet. As of March 15, its COVID rules now state that customers and employees are not required to wear masks in stores, regardless of vaccination status.
But the supermarket chain is still taking some precautions against the virus.
According to the supermarket chain, all of its stores still offer contactless pay in an effort to limit physical exchange between employees and shoppers. “This is one more measure Publix is taking to protect the health and well-being of its customers and associates,” the retailer states on its website. “Customers can make a contactless payment by placing a smartphone or contactless pay-enabled credit or debit card near a contactless-enabled device, rather than swiping or inserting a card into the PIN pad.”
Publix also says it is “following the CDC guidance for cleaning and sanitation” in its stores still. “Our heightened sanitation response system includes associates cleaning surfaces across the stores throughout each day,” the chain says.
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