State Watch

Local health department suggests grocery store trips based on shoppers’ last name

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Health officials in one Maryland county have suggested that consumers limit their visits to grocery and convenience stores by shopping on specific days based on their last name to limit the spread of the coronavirus, though officials say no such restrictions have been implemented.

The proposal, published Wednesday by the Calvert County Health Department, a state agency, would involve customers voluntarily limiting trips to once every five days. Those with A-C last names would shop on dates ending with 0 and 5, D-G names would be on dates ending with 1 and 6, H-L names would be on dates ending with 2 and 7, M-R names would shop on dates ending with 3 and 8, and last names starting with S-Z would go on dates ending with 4 and 9.

“We all want to get back to our normal lives as soon as possible. Our actions make a difference. Sustaining those actions are the key to lowering our risk of infection and lifting social restrictions. We can’t speed up time, but we can dramatically slow the spread of the virus,” the county said in its announcement.

In a statement on Wednesday, the county Board of Commissioners emphasized that there were no such restrictions in place and the proposal from the local health department was a recommendation rather than an official policy.

“The public is advised there are currently no restrictions in Calvert County, Maryland. Citizens may continue to shop at their convenience,” the county government said in a press release.

The health department also said that beginning Thursday all stores must properly disinfect all shopping carts or make antiseptic wipes available for customer use at the entrance, and everyone waiting in line at deli counters or registers must stay at least six feet apart. It also said there should be an occupancy limit of five people per 1,000 square feet, which the county said echoes policies from Walmart and grocery store chain Giant.

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) this week ordered any visitors to retailers or users of public transportation in the state to wear facial coverings, with the order set to take effect Saturday morning.

“While this order is an important step in our immediate efforts to protect public health and safety, the wearing of masks is also something that we may all have to become more accustomed to in order to safely reopen our state,” Hogan said at a speech at the State House.

The Hill has reached out to the Calvert County Health Department for comment.


UPDATE: This story was updated April 16 at 5:05 p.m. to reflect the county government’s statement emphasizing the system recommended by the health department is voluntary

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