'We can't do this alone:' Grocery association worried about possible confrontations, seen elsewhere in country
PORTLAND, Ore. (KTVZ) -- The Northwest Grocery Association issued an urgent call Saturday to the public to wear masks at all times when in a place of business, especially at your neighborhood grocery store.
The grade group represents the region's large grocery businesses, including Fred Meyer, Safeway, Albertsons and Costco, as well as several small, independent chains, a representative said.
“While what we know about this virus continues to change, today we know for certain that social distancing and face masks (or coverings) are our most powerful tool to prevent the spread of COVID-19, but your grocery stores and retailers can’t do it alone,” said Amanda Dalton, legislative director for the association.
Dalton continued, “Since the beginning of the COVID crisis, grocery stores and their store teams have put in extraordinary effort to meet the needs of the local community. This has required extensive safety measures in all stores to safeguard the employees, customers and supply chains, ensuring stores are open, clean and stocked for customers.
"In every decision they have made, they have strived to balance the most urgent mission – to continue to meet the immediate and most essential needs of the public – while ensuring the safety of their employees and customers.
"The store employees understand that when they wear masks for an entire day’s work, they are protecting themselves, their co-workers and their community, and they are hopeful to get the same consideration.”
As grocers and retailers continue to seek clarity around the expectations for enforcement and legal restrictions facing a business for either declining service or inquiring as to personal medical information, they currently must rely on the public to partner with them to reduce the spread of COVID-19, the association said in a statement.
The group said grocery stores continue to comply with all state and agency guidelines and have adapted quickly as those guidelines are revised and updated.
“It is important for the public to know that when they see a fellow customer in the grocery store without a mask, the retailer is required to assume the individual has a medical condition or disability preventing them from wearing a mask,” Dalton said.
In addition, they said, retailers must consider the safety of their employees.
"Across the country, we have seen stories of violence and aggression against grocery store employees for attempting to enforce mask mandates," the news release said. "These escalating incidents have presented new workplace safety issues, as grocery workers interact daily with a weary and at times frustrated public.
"Many grocers have done additional training and education with employees, preparing them for difficult situations and de-escalating these situations while ensuring everyone’s safety," the association said.
It said stores are balancing the various responsibilities of protecting the health safety of everyone in the stores, and are now trying to prevent volatile confrontations that could cause physical safety concerns for employees and customers in the store.
Dalton continued, “We can’t do this alone. We urge all in our communities to join us in this call to protect our neighbors and employees. Please wear your mask!”
Requires the public to wear masks when out at a public place, including grocery stores. Applies to 8 counties (Clatsop July 1, 2020). Provides an exemption if the customer is a child under 12 or has a medical condition that makes it hard to breathe when wearing a mask, face shield, or face covering or has a disability that prevents the individual from wearing a mask, face shield, or face covering. View guidance here.
Requires the public to wear masks when out in any indoor or outdoor public place, including grocery stores. Applies to Statewide. Provides an exemption if the customer is a child under 5 years of age or has a medical condition, mental health condition, or disability that prevents wearing a face covering. View guidance here and here.
ABOUT NWGA: The Northwest Grocery Association is the leading voice for the Pacific Northwest’s grocery industry in Oregon, Washington and Idaho. The Association represents retailers, wholesalers, manufacturers and suppliers that support the Pacific Northwest’s grocery industry.