Updated 3:30 pm
Once again, an Island town is taking regulations a step further than the state in an attempt to keep Islanders safe during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Effective Thursday, the Tisbury board of health is requiring all individuals entering a grocery story within the town of Tisbury to wear a face covering. “Although a cloth or surgical mask is preferable, scarves or other fabric covering the mouth and nose are acceptable alternatives,” an email from Tisbury health agent Maura Valley states. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recently changed its guidelines and urged all Americans to wear face coverings while in public.
“Although we understand that wearing a mask provides limited protection it may help to prevent the spread of coronavirus from the person wearing the mask to others who are nearby,” Valley wrote in a followup email. “Therefore if we all wear masks, we may be protecting each other. This is in line with the national trend that recognized that the wearing of masks may reduce the spread of COVID-19. It is important to note that while wearing masks people must still try to maintain six feet between themselves and others.”
Supermarket employees are also required to wear masks, she wrote.
Valley added that the issue has been discussed with other health agents, but they have not yet followed suit.
Meanwhile, new state guidelines went into effect Wednesday requiring supermarkets to limit the size of crowds inside. Gov. Charlie Baker touched on the guidelines on Tuesday and they are posted on the state’s website.
Crowds are supposed to be limited to 40 percent of a store’s capacity. When possible, aisles are also supposed to be made one-way, according to the state guidelines.
Tisbury issued the following recommendations:
- In order to limit the number of people in the store at any given time families are asked to have one individual shop for the entire family.
- Wash hands prior to going to the grocery store and use the hand sanitizer that will be provided, if available, at the entrance to the store.
- Shoppers must be sure to maintain a distance of six (6) feet between themselves and other shoppers.
- If the store appears to be busy when you arrive please consider coming back at a later, less busy time.
In his latest video to customers, Steve Bernier, owner of Cronig’s mentioned the new requirements. Bernier is seeking volunteers to be “captains” at the door to help count the number of shoppers coming and going from the store to free up store employees to continue to work stocking shelves and waiting on customers.
He urged customers to continue to be patient and respect the six-foot social distancing. “With all of this employed, we should feel very confident that we are all very safe and doing the best possible job protecting the employees and each other coming into the store with our safety protocols,” Bernier said.
Maria Fruci, a spokesman for Stop & Shop, the other large supermarket in Vineyard Haven, said the company is shipping KN95 masks to all of its stores and they should arrive by next week. In the meantime, employees can wear their own masks to be in compliance with the Tisbury regulations. Fruci said Edgartown employees will also receive masks and are strongly encouraging the use of masks among all associates.
As for the state regulations, both stores will have an associate at the doors with an iPad to count the number of shoppers in the store to meet the 40 percent or fewer requirement, she said. Signs have also been installed at the stores to remind customers about social distancing and periodic announcements will be made about the capacity limits.
On Wednesday, the relative of a Times’ employee noted smaller crowds at Cronig’s and plenty of social distancing being employed. At the front of the store, Norma Blidgen, a supervisor at Cronig’s, wore a mask that said, “I’m smiling.”
At a press briefing Wednesday, Gov. Charlie Baker praised supermarket employees for working on the front lines. “You’re spending long hours away from home and away from your loved ones to make sure that others have the essential items they need,” Baker said, adding that the state would continue to work with local officials to ensure the safety of workers.
Reporter Brian Dowd contributed to this story. Updated to include comments from Stop & Shop. -ed