Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has signed an executive order that extends current coronavirus safety measures to protect employees and customers at grocery stores and pharmacies.
Executive Order 2020-126, enacted yesterday, continues a range of COVID-19 health and safety guidelines to July 15. Among the key measures, grocery and pharmacy customers who can medically tolerate a face covering must wear one when entering a store. Grocery stores and pharmacies also must devote at least two hours of shopping time per week for vulnerable populations, including people over age 60, pregnant women and those with underlying health conditions.
Also, if an employee tests positive for COVID-19, the business must notify other workers without infringing on private health information.
The executive order calls on “food-selling establishments” — including grocery stores, convenience stores and restaurants that sell groceries or food available for takeout — and pharmacies to deploy strategies to reduce COVID-19 exposure for customers and employees.
Besides face coverings, those measures include comprehensive store cleanings, especially high-touch areas; access to handwashing, hand sanitizer and disinfecting wipes; social distancing (six feet), aided by protective barriers, signage or one-way aisles; and the closing of self-serve food bars and sampling stations, among other strategies. Sick employees also are prohibited from reporting to work and must be sent home if they display coronavirus symptoms.
“Michigan has emerged as a national leader in fighting the COVID-19 pandemic, but there is more work to do to protect families from this virus. This executive order will help us continue to protect employees and customers at grocery stores and pharmacies,” Whitmer said in a statement. “I encourage all Michiganders to practice social distancing and wear a face mask when they are out in public so we can protect the heroes on the front lines of this crisis and avoid a second wave of COVID-19.”
With COVID-19 lockdowns easing in many states, food workers have stepped up calls to local, state and federal government to uphold safety measures in stores and other facilities, noting that the threat of the virus in their workplace hasn’t abated.
On Monday, United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 7, which represents more than 30,000 workers in Colorado and Wyoming, applauded the Colorado legislature for passing the Healthy Families and Workplaces Act (SB20-205), which will allow workers to accumulate an hour of sick leave for every 30 hours worked, up to a maximum of 48 hours.
“UFCW Local 7 members have often experienced the dangerous side effects of not being able to stay home from work when sick, including nine members in Colorado who recently died of COVID-19,” stated Kim Cordova, president of Denver-based UFCW Local 7. “When cities and counties shut down, it was these same essential workers that kept our communities running and fed. No Coloradan should be forced to choose between paying bills or protecting their health. The Healthy Families and Workplaces Act is a smart public health policy that will help prevent contagious diseases and deaths across Colorado.”
And last week, in testimony for a U.S. House Oversight and Reform Committee hearing, UFCW International President Marc Perrone urged Congress to bolster protections for essential workers, noting that the union’s membership has seen coronavirus deaths and infections rise. He told lawmakers that, among UFCW’s members, 225 workers have died from COVID-19, and more than 29,000 workers have been infected or exposed.
“All across this country, our health care, food and retail workers are risking their health and safety to ensure that the American people have the food, supplies and medical care they need during this crisis. Essential workers — as so many of you have called them — have earned essential protections. Jobs that face high risk, as these do in the COVID-19 world we are living in, must be provided the protections, benefits and wages that reflect that high health risk,” Perrone said.
UFCW International represents 1.3 million workers in grocery, retail, health chare, meatpacking, food processing and other industries.
“Millions of workers who lack access to paid sick days and paid family and medical leave are facing the devastating choice between risking their own health or risking the loss of a paycheck or job,” Perrone added. “Strong, anti-retaliation protections must be in place in order to ensure that workers who feel ill, or who are suffering from COVID-19, can remain at home, in quarantine for the full period of time recommended by the CDC, until it is safe to return to work.”
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