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Coronavirus officials now say to avoid grocery stores if you can

Published Apr 6th, 2020 5:02PM EDT
Coronavirus USA
Image: Duncan Williams/CSM/Shutterstock

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  • The number of coronavirus cases is expected to spike so dramatically this week across the US that public officials and health experts are now warning people to even stay away from grocery stores and pharmacies, some of the last businesses that remain open during the pandemic, if at all possible. 
  • According to the latest numbers from Johns Hopkins University, there have been more than 347,000 confirmed cases in the US, as well as more than 10,000 deaths.
  • Visit BGR’s homepage for more stories.

We’re now at such a critical stage of the coronavirus outbreak in the US that public officials are now begging everyone to even avoid grocery stores and pharmacies, as essential as they are, as the country prepares for an ominous surge in new cases as well as deaths from the virus.

“The next two weeks are extraordinarily important,” White House coronavirus response coordinator Deborah Birx told reporters Saturday at a press conference. “This is the moment to not be going to the grocery store, not going to the pharmacy, but doing everything you can to keep your family and your friends safe.” And then today, Brett Giroir — Assistant Secretary for Health at the US Department of Health and Human Services — made the same recommendation on NBC’s “Today” show.

“We are all saying the same thing,” Giroir told the show’s anchor Savannah Guthrie. “You really need to keep your physical contact with others and with surfaces to the minimal possible.”

Of course, these officials aren’t recommending people completely stop buying medications or household essentials until told otherwise. It’s a more nuanced point, about only going to the store or pharmacy when you have to and spreading out those trips as much as possible. Still, it’s certainly a dramatic admonition to hear and one that only underscores the fact that public officials and health experts are bracing for this week and next to be the worst yet in the US in terms of the virus’ toll.

In many communities around the country, groceries and pharmacies are some of the only places left open outside of peoples’ homes, so the warning to stay away from them as we enter the worst week for coronavirus cases to-date will be regarded as a stark warning, indeed.

Retailers like Walmart have increasingly been taking matters into their own hands when it comes to making changes that encourage social distancing and limitations on chances the virus can spread through throngs of shoppers. Over the weekend, Walmart started limiting the number of people who can be inside its stores at any given time — if you visit one today, for example, you should see employees directing shoppers to enter through a designated area as they’re individually counted upon entrance.

There are also signs set up in stores near the cash registers which mark where shoppers should stand in line so they don’t bunch up. The state of Vermont has even gone to the extreme of prohibiting retailers like Walmart from selling non-essential items during the pandemic, which would otherwise encourage more shoppers to be inside the store to buy goods.

Andy Meek Trending News Editor

Andy Meek is a reporter based in Memphis who has covered media, entertainment, and culture for over 20 years. His work has appeared in outlets including The Guardian, Forbes, and The Financial Times, and he’s written for BGR since 2015. Andy's coverage includes technology and entertainment, and he has a particular interest in all things streaming.

Over the years, he’s interviewed legendary figures in entertainment and tech that range from Stan Lee to John McAfee, Peter Thiel, and Reed Hastings.