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Health department issues guidelines for reopening retail

Some people wearing face masks wait in line to shop Saturday, April 4, 2020, in Tempe, Ariz. Honeywell announced that it is adding manufacturing capabilities in Phoenix to produce N95 face masks in support of the government's response to the novel coronavirus The company's Phoenix expansion will allow Honeywell to produce more than 20 million N95 disposable masks monthly to combat COVID-19 in the U.S. The new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms for most people, but for some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness or death. (AP Photo/Matt York)

Some people wearing face masks wait in line to shop Saturday, April 4, 2020, in Tempe, Ariz. (AP Photo/Matt York)

Come next Friday you’ll be able to go out and buy a new dress or suit.

But don’t count on being able to try it on.

Guidelines issued May 1 by the Arizona Department of Health Services recommend that retailers close fitting rooms. The way the agency sees it, these are “enclosed spaces … that do not allow for appropriate physical distancing.”

But no one from the agency could explain how a shopper going into a fitting room alone would be in danger of getting or spreading COVID-19.

The guidelines come two days after Gov. Doug Ducey agreed to relax his rules about what kinds of businesses are allowed to stay open.

Until now only those on the governor’s “essential” list could take customers. That included big-box retailers because they also sold “essential” items, from food and ammunition to toilet paper.

Effective Monday, all retailers can begin selling goods for curbside pickup or delivery. Then, they can actually open their doors to customers on May 8.

But the guidelines — they are not enforceable — suggest some restrictions.

Some are obvious, like maintaining physical distance, not only between customers and staff but also among customers.

That, the recommendations say, could require stores to limit the number of customers inside at any one time. And it also could mean paying “special attention to limiting areas where customers and employees can congregate.”

The health department also is encouraging retailers to continue providing delivery and curbside services even after they can allow customers inside.

And they suggest — but do not require — offering cloth face coverings for both employees and customers.

As much as the health department is telling retailers what they should do, the list of recommendations is even longer for Arizonans who are ready to venture out to these stores.

Some are extensions of existing guidelines for those who go out, like staying six feet from others while shopping and in lines. They also suggest covering the mouth and nose with face cloths when going out in public, though Ducey himself has not been seen in public wearing one.

But some of the responsibility for avoiding diseases while shopping is strictly left to customers.

For example, the health department suggests disinfecting the shopping cart. That, however, presumes wipes are available adjacent to the carts. Otherwise the burden would appear to fall on shoppers to bring their own.

There also is a suggestion to use “touchless” payment system, a system dependent on having a credit or debit card with a radio chip that does not have to be inserted into a machine and does not require touching the device to identify payment types or insert a PIN. Most stores, however, do not have these.

And on arriving home, the health department believes shoppers should immediately use hand sanitizer, followed by washing up for at least 20 seconds on arriving home.

“As we breathe life back into our businesses, we want to make sure we’re taking common sense precautions to keep employees and customers safe,” the governor said in a prepared statement. “Taking these responsible steps that prioritize public health will help grow confidence and ensure we don’t just reopen all businesses, but do it successfully.”

 

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