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3News Investigates: Undercover video shows grocery workers, customers without masks

3News Investigates went undercover, visiting ten local grocery stores, and evaluating them in four different categories.

CLEVELAND —

Gov. DeWine's Orders

On April 2nd, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine announced that Ohio's Stay at Home order would be extended, with some specific updates. One of those updates allowed essential businesses like grocery stores to stay open, as long as they followed safe social distancing requirements. 

According to the order, which you can read in full here, "Every store shall prominently display at every entrance the maximum capacity number. Every store shall ensure that baskets, shopping carts and the like are properly cleaned between customers. If a line is present either inside or outside the store, a six-foot distance shall be maintained between those not residing in the same household."  

That order went into effect on April 6th.

According to the United Food & Commercial Workers, at least 15 grocery workers have died of COVID-19.

3News Investigation

Are employers, employees and customers really following Gov. DeWine's orders?

Our 3 News Investigates team went undercover with just our cell phones, visiting ten local grocery stores, and evaluating them in four categories:  

1. Was an occupancy sign posted?

2. Were carts and baskets being wiped down?

3. Were people maintaining six feet of distance in lines?

4. Approximately how many customers were wearing masks? Approximately how many workers were wearing masks?

We visited the following stores:

  • Giant Eagle - 5321 Warrensville Center Rd, Maple Heights, OH 44137 
  • Aldi - 1600 W 117th St, Lakewood, OH 44107 
  • Meijer - 9200 Mentor Ave, Mentor, OH 44060
  • Dave's Markets - 1929 East 61st Street, Cleveland, 44103
  • Save A Lot - 21900 Emery Rd, North Randall, OH 44128
  • Heinen's - 16611 Chagrin Blvd, Shaker Heights, OH 44120 
  • Costco - 35804 Detroit Rd, Avon, OH 44011
  • Target - 3535 Steelyard Dr, Cleveland, OH 44109
  • Dollar Tree - 22080 Emery Rd, North Randall, OH 44128
  • Walmart - 3400 Steelyard Dr, Cleveland, OH 44109

3News Findings

Let's start with occupancy signs. All ten stores had an occupancy sign posted at the entrance.  

Credit: Rachel Polansky

At Costco and Aldi, we also saw customers waiting their turn - standing six feet apart - to go inside.

We also spotted one-way aisles at Giant Eagle, Walmart, and Costco.

Moving on to carts being wiped down. We spotted employees wiping down carts at Giant Eagle, Aldi, Heinen's, Meijer, and Walmart. 

We saw cleaning products available for customers to wipe down their own carts at Dave's, Costco and Save A Lot. We did not see employees wiping down carts at these locations.

We did not see any cleaning products or employees near the carts or baskets at Target or Dollar Tree. 

Next up is six feet social distancing. All ten stores had floor markings or stickers encouraging social distancing. 

Credit: Rachel Polansky

Some had them only at the cash register, while others had them all over the store.

The problem with these markings - some customers ignored them.

"Did you think people were practicing social distancing?" 3News investigator Rachel Polansky asked Dujuan Moore.

"No, not really," said Dujuan Moore, who was shopping at Walmart.

 We watched customers ignore social distancing markings on the checkout lines at Walmart and Dollar Tree.

Last up, masks. While a lot of workers were wearing masks, many were wearing them improperly. 

We spotted a cashier at Save A Lot wearing her mask dangling off her ear.

We saw a deli worker at Dave's with his nostrils exposed. The customer he was preparing food for also had his mask on improperly.

We watched a woman at Target stocking shelves with her mask tucked under her chin. 

We spotted the below workers at Walmart and Dave's wearing their masks improperly, with their nostrils and mouths exposed.

Credit: WKYC
Credit: WKYC

"I've been wearing the mask every time I come out of my car and I go into a public place," said Marceline Norton, who was shopping at Giant Eagle.

As for customers, roughly half were wearing masks.

 "There are people definitely wearing masks. I don't have one because I can't find any," said Holly Williams, who was shopping at Walmart.

Bottom line, the stores we visited appear to be following Gov. DeWine's orders but when it comes to masks, everyone could step up their game.

Ultimately, your safety depends on you and the precautions you take.

Grocers respond to 3News

3News reached out to all ten stores that we named in our report. 

At least two tell us that stores will be changing their procedures as a result of our findings.

Save A Lot spokesperson Sarah Griffin told 3News:

"Please see below for a statement about what Save A Lot is doing to look after the health and safety of our teams and communities in all our stores—as well as some specific actions we’ve taken in our Cleveland-area stores following your visit. Thank you for sharing what you found.

The health and safety of our customers and our team members is our top priority, and we are committed to following all state and local guidelines, including the Governor’s requirement to wear masks while in the store. We have provided masks to all our team members, and have already reached out to our teams in the area to reinforce and re-emphasize the critical importance of this requirement.

To ensure the safety of everyone in all of our stores, we have put in place a number of precautions, including limiting the number of customers allowed in each store at one time, creating 6-foot markers at our checkouts, placing plexiglass barriers at the point of sale, and making hand sanitizer, masks and gloves available for Team Member use. Before the start of each shift, we ask team members to confirm they are free from symptoms of illness, including fever, cough or shortness of breath. Team Members are asked to frequently wipe down all surfaces in the store—including carts—with EPA-approved cleaners. We have also made cleaning supplies available to customers when they walk in the door, should they wish to wipe down their own cart."

Giant Eagle spokesperson Jannah Jablonowski told 3News: "A sign is posted near the entrance of every Giant Eagle and Market District that displays the maximum occupancy specific to that location. For reference, we’re admitting up to 30 percent of occupancy allowed by fire code. Shopping carts and baskets are disinfected by a Team Members between customer use. We have social distance floor indicators placed on the floor approximately six feet apart in areas of the store where lines typically form like the pharmacy, checkout and customer service. Additionally, we have transitioned to one-way aisles in our supermarkets and have placed decals on the floor at the ends of each aisle indicting the flow of foot traffic. We are providing gloves and masks to all of Team Members and require masks to be worn."

Target spokesperson Shane Kitzman told 3News:

"We’re taking guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which recommends regular cleaning as one of the most important preventative measures we can take. We’ve invested in and expanded rigorous cleaning routines including:

  • Providing team members with high-quality, disposable face masks and gloves to wear at work and encouraging healthy hygiene habits as guided by the CDC. Given CDC guidance on the role that face masks can play in slowing the spread of the coronavirus and to keep our team and guests safe, we’re requiring team members to wear masks or face coverings when working.
  • Having a team member stationed at each store entrance to ensure carts and baskets are clean and available in an orderly fashion.
  • Cleaning checklanes after each guest transaction.
  • Rotating the use of checklanes to allow those lanes not in use to be deep cleaned.
  • Adding payroll hours to support more rigorous cleaning routines.
  • Rolling out Plexiglass partitions to checklanes at the front of our stores, as well as at electronics, service desks, CVS Pharmacy and Target Optical.

Aldi spokesperson Caroline Hewitt directed us to these links:

https://corporate.aldi.us/en/newsroom/aldi-covid-19-updates/aldi-store-update-april-8-2020/

https://corporate.aldi.us/en/newsroom/aldi-covid-19-updates/aldi-store-update-april-23-2020/

Heinen's spokesperson Paula Skladanowski directed us to this link: https://www.heinens.com/COVID-19-Resource-Page

Meijer spokesperson Joe Hirschmugl directed us to these links: http://newsroom.meijer.com/2020-04-04-Meijer-Announces-New-Efforts-to-Keep-Customers-and-Team-Members-Safe

http://newsroom.meijer.com/2020-04-03-Meijer-Implements-Daily-Health-Screenings-for-Team-Members

Costco spokesperson Muriel Cooper directed us to this link:

https://www.costco.com/covid-updates.html