Grocery Stores Are the Coronavirus Tipping Point

Shoppers fill the aisles of a Trader Joes grocery store in New York, Wednesday afternoon, March 11, 2020. On Wednesday New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, confirmed 39 additional cases of the coronavirus, bringing the state’s total to 212. (Sarah Blesener/The New York Times)

For a couple of weeks now, grocery stores have been one of the only respites from cabin fever. Despite all the lockdowns and social-distancing measures across America, people still need food. In the most restrictive states, the grocery store has become about the last place you can go where life is lived more or less as it previously was. Except now, not even grocery stores can keep up the facade of normalcy. As many health experts have feared, last week, reports began to trickle in of grocery-store workers coming down with COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.

In this way, the pandemic has put grocery-store stockers and cashiers in an impossible situation. The country can’t simply shut down grocery stores. Along with pharmacies, they’re an important lifeline for homebound Americans. But even essential shopping can endanger low-paid workers who are not trained in pandemic preparedness and have little choice but to show up for work.

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