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Stores step up social distance regulations

Tuesday, April 7, 2020
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Leader photo by JOSH EVANS

Pictured are grocery carts set up at the Ruston Walmart Supercenter signifying to customers the six feet of space the store is asking people to maintain from each other during the current coronavirus outbreak.

Several Ruston businesses are more strictly enforcing social distancing guidelines in an effort to stop the spread of the coronavirus.

Walmart Supercenter is limiting to 500 the number of shoppers allowed inside the store at a time, while Super 1 Foods and others are using tape placed on the floor to ensure customers are at least six feet apart in the aisles.

Neighborhood Walmart is limiting shoppers to 206 at once, and least one store has limited the number of checkout lines in attempt to keep customers and staff at safer distances.

"If (the pandemic) goes on, if it doesn't stop spreading, it's going to tighten up even more," Lincoln Parish Director of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness Kip Franklin said Monday. "It may come down to where you have to wait in line or in your car before you can go in the store."

Coronavirus numbers released by the Louisiana Department of Health at noon Mon day show Lincoln Parish with 19 confirmed cases. That number includes the first cases diagnosed 16 days ago to current. There is no delineation to show patients who may no longer be quarantined or who have gotten over COVID-19, the disease the virus causes.

Statewide, some 14,876 people have been confirmed with COVID-19. That up from 13,010 reported Sunday. The statewide death toll as of Monday was 512, an increase of 35 over the previous day.

Meantime, shoppers at Ruston's Walmart Supercenter may now have to wait beneath a blue tent to enter the store, depending on how many other customers are inside.

One of the store managers said she could not comment officially to the media, but did explain the new rules.

Customers can enter only through the grocery entrance; if there are more than 500 people in the store, shoppers have to wait until another shopper leaves before being allowed in.

Store associates are sanitizing shopping carts throughout the day. Blue tape has also been placed on the sidewalk to keep those waiting in line maintaining the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's required 6-foot distance from each other.

Super 1 Foods and Shoppers Value has erected Plexiglass shields between the customers and checkers. Super 1 also has tape marking the floor of each aisle in 6-foot increments and is limiting the number of some items per household.

Attempts to contact store management by telephone were unsuccessful.

Walgreens also has the distance in its checkout line marked in 6-foot increments.

"It's all about social distancing," Franklin said.

Medical doctors say keeping people apart from each other is the best way to slow the coronavirus spread. That's the reason for the federal and state stay-at-home orders now in place through at least April 30.

While the orders have meant families are spending more time together and thus more projects around the house, that brings its own caution while shopping for home improvement or yard items, Franklin said.

"There are more honey-do lists that are being depleted because the dads are home trying to find something to do. But to do that, they have to go to shop. But they need to be real careful about interacting," he said.