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Shopping or Dining Out? Some COVID Guidelines and Policies to Look For

Posted by Frank Herold on October 5, 2020


Shopping during Covid in Sarasota, FloridaAfter being cooped up for weeks or months, many of us are looking forward to going out again, whether it be to a restaurant or shopping center. But, the pandemic is anything but over and it’s still important to remember to be safe.

Many shops and restaurants have new guidelines and rules to help protect their customers, be sure that the places you’re shopping at have taken the necessary steps and precautions before you go.

Related Blog: Seniors Can Walk the Trails to Better Health in Venice, Florida


Here’s a quick guide on what to look for before going out again.

Mask Mandates at Restaurants and Shops

All stores should be requiring masks. Restaurants should be requiring masks for staff, and for customers when not sitting and eating, including on outdoor patios. Most major chains are requiring masks for shoppers and customers at this point, but many local joints may be less strict.

Some jurisdictions are mandating masks legally in all businesses. As a note, the ADA does not require stores to admit patrons who claim to be unable to wear masks, but should accommodate them in other ways.

The most important thing is that all employees should be wearing masks. Make sure that they actually are. While a lot of stores are not enforcing mask mandates because of the risk of violence, most are at least encouraging mask wearing.

Social Distancing Guidelines

Look for store policies that support social distancing. These might include:

  • Marking six foot distance in areas where customers queue.
  • Marking store aisles as one way.
  • Reserving times for high-risk populations.
  • Plexiglass sneeze shields to protect cashiers.

The most important thing is that stores are doing their best to promote distancing. Some restaurants are hanging curtains between tables to protect diners, and most have reduced the number of tables. While social distancing issues are not always the store's fault, look for policies that encourage distancing

Reduced Capacity

Businesses should be reducing and policing capacity. This is particularly important for restaurants. Look for restaurants that have taken out tables and/or blocked off booths, and avoid establishments still serving food at the bar. Ideally, if the weather allows, choose a restaurant with a large patio and sit outside.

The CDC recommends that restaurants place tables at least six feet apart. Another guideline to look for: limits to party size. Avoid restaurants that will still seat large parties that are likely from different households, choose those that are limiting party size to six or even four.

Hygiene and Cleaning Policies

Surface transmission of COVID-19 is rare, but you should still look for stores that have a policy of frequent cleaning of high touch items such as carts, self-checkout screens, etc. A plastic "bag" over the self-checkout screen is actually a good thing; it's much easier to clean despite looking like it might attract dirt.

Bathrooms should be cleaned more frequently and toilets should ideally have lids (close the lid when flushing), although this might not be a change a smaller establishment can make easily.  The CDC also recommends hand sanitizer, which stores and restaurants can provide at the door, and reducing touch as much as possible. 

Choose restaurants that have single use menus where possible, as menus can be hard to clean. (And consider looking at the menu on the restaurant's website before you go and deciding what you are going to order ahead of time).

Curbside Service

For most retail, curbside service is ideal. You should, in any case, limit browsing. Choose stores which offer curbside service to both drive up and walk up customers, and have protocols to reduce contact for both. Some stores are offering "virtual shopper" services where an employee can browse and check for you. Alternatively, order products on the website for curbside pickup.

Avoid establishments which are not still offering curbside service (disability advocates are arguing that curbside pickup should become permanent).

Curbside pickup is also good for restaurant takeout, especially if the restaurant is not equipped with a drive through.

More important than any specific guidelines, though, is a sense that the store or restaurant is taking things seriously. We all need to do our part to slow the spread and get the pandemic under control. Make sure the businesses you support are doing theirs.

At Jacaranda Trace, the safety of our residents is our primary concern and we’ve taken every necessary precaution to protect the health of our community. See more of our COVID-19 guidelines or schedule a private tour today to see for yourself.

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