Stricter Guidelines Issued for Mass. Supermarkets

Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito suggested capacity would be limited to 40 percent.

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Stricter guidelines were announced for Massachusetts supermarkets on Wednesday as the state braces for a surge in coronavirus cases.

The state Department of Health issued an executive order requiring grocery stores to limit occupancy to no more than 40%. The occupant count includes customers and employees.

Stores with a maximum capacity of 25 are exempt from the limit.

Following the death of a grocery store employee from COVID-19, Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker is working on new guidelines to protect employees.

If lines form outside the store, staff are required to monitor the line and ensure proper social distancing. Local law enforcement are to be notified if physical security concerns arise.

Gov. Baker said last week that Massachusetts is expecting as many as 172,000 coronavirus cases, with a potential peak in hospitalizations between April 10 and April 20.

Wednesday's announcement followed the recent death of a cashier at the Market Basket in Salem.

Fifty-nine-year-old Vitalina Williams died Saturday from COVID-19 about a week after getting sick, according to her husband. 

Williams' husband, who also works at Market Basket, said he, too, had symptoms of the virus. He says his wife died about a week after getting sick.

A grocery store worker has died from COVID-19.

Two other employees at the store have also tested positive for the virus and have quarantined themselves and their close contacts, Market Basket said in a statement.

The grocery chain says it's stepping up all necessary precautions to protect employees and customers, including bringing in a specialized cleaning crew to clean and disinfect the store.

It was just last week that Market Basket adopted its own stricter social distancing guidelines, including limited the number of customers in the store at any given time.

Market Basket has announced additional social distancing measures that will take effect April 2, including limiting the number of customers shopping at one time.

Other grocery chains, including Whole Foods and Stop & Shop, have also reported that employees have been diagnosed with coronavirus.

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