In an effort to protect their workers and reduce the transmission of the coronavirus, some regional and national grocery store chains have closed down stores and turned to curbside pickup and delivery to feed their customers.
Thousands of grocery store workers nationwide have contracted the coronavirus and at least 30 have died.
Ralphs parent company, Kroger, has closed one of its Kroger stores to the public in Cincinnati and turned it into a pick-up only store. Kroger is looking into whether the same model is feasible for Southern California, according to a company spokesman.
“We’re not advocating for stores to close down and go delivery only… It actually has negatives to it as well,” said Todd Walters who heads the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 135.
He represents some 12,000 grocery store employees in San Diego and Imperial Counties.
“The problem is you have more workers crammed into a smaller place working closer together and it offers more of a risk of getting sick," said Walters.
Since the pandemic, he says at least 18 of his members who've tested positive for the virus.
Dr. Georgina Nanos specializes in the spread of infectious diseases.
"Limiting any transaction between people can help reduce the spread, but that's not a realistic expectation on the public. The onus remains on us as individuals to be respectful of our grocery store workers."
It’s a sentiment echoed by Walters who's keeping close watch on what happens in stores, using union representatives to do surprise inspections.
“We actually count the number of customers in the stores. We checked for if the doors are all open, if they're metering customers. We check for social distancing and personal protective equipment," Walters said.
While Walters says customers locally have gotten better about social distancing, a survey showed nationally 85% of UFCW members report customers aren't social distancing.
Shoppers at the Mission Valley store had mixed reactions to curbside only grocery stores. Some noted purchasing meats and produce could be a problem.
Others like a man who identified himself only as Jay, worried about closures going too far.
“I think the healthy people should be able to go to the stores, with good common sense," he said.
"It would be great if we could make it easier on them and do the curbside. That would be awesome," said shopper Todd Gray.
Select Whole Foods locations are only taking online orders, but none of them are here in San Diego.