[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]ORIGINAL SOURCE: Coronavirus (COVID-19) and Independent Grocery

The National Grocers Association is actively monitoring the growing spread of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) both internationally and domestically, and the impacts it will have to the independent grocery industry. The U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has provided information to help with preparedness planning, and we write to you to make sure that our members are taking the necessary precautions to protect your employees, your customers and the communities you serve.

Supermarkets are on the front lines of emergency response both in preparation for an impending disaster and as one of the primary operations that must be up and running for a community to be able to recover after a disaster strikes. Federal, state, and local government entities often will partner with local retailers, wholesalers and even trade associations, such as NGA, to coordinate response efforts after a disaster in order to quickly get basic necessities back into local communities. And while emergency situations can be fluid, grocers make contingency plans ahead of time, which involves coordination with their many vendors throughout the supply chain, especially those that provide items people tend to stock up on, such as milk, eggs, bread, and water.

As additional information becomes available, NGA will continue to keep our members updated on best practices and other precautionary actions that you can take to prepare for the Coronavirus.

For more information, please review the following or contact NGA at membership@nationalgrocers.org.

Member Best Practices
NGA has compiled the following list of common practices that members have shared with us. Remember, communication with your customers and employees is paramount.

Communicate with your customers the steps your business is taking to protect against COVID-19
Ask customers to implement social distancing (six feet per person) while standing in checkout lines
Educate employees and customers on CDC-recommended hygiene procedures
Institute additional mandatory cleaning or sanitizing schedules and directions around stores
Increase or add hand sanitizing stations around your stores for customers and employees
Assign employees to regularly sanitize shopping carts and other high-traffic or high-touch areas Require any employees who have flu-like symptoms to stay home
Institute purchasing limits on high demand items and household staples (toilet paper, hand sanitizer, cleaning products)
Stay in communication with local and state health officials and make sure your company is receiving regular updates
Consider changing regular store hours to encourage grocery shopping at lower traffic times
Schedule specific hours of operation for vulnerable populations to shop without other customers
Expand remote shopping options if available (click-and-collect, delivery, pick-up, shop-by-phone)
Consider temporarily closing salad bars, buffets, and other ready-to-eat or sample offerings in stores
Update and communicate your sick leave and paid-time-off policies to your employees regarding COVID-19
Identify hard-to-cover positions and implement cross-training to prepare for coverage issues
This is not an exhaustive list and are only recommendations. Each NGA member must make preparations that best reflect the needs of your individual businesses to protect your employees, your customers and the communities you serve. If you or your company would like to share any helpful practices that your business is undertaking, please contact Robert Yeakel, Director of Government Relations, at ryeakel@nationalgrocers.org.

Public Health Information
The White House recently released The President’s Coronavirus Guidelines for America – 15 Days to Slow the Spread.

About Coronavirus (COVID-19) Disease (CDC)

Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is a respiratory illness that can spread from person to person
The first case of COVID-19 in the United States was reported on January 21, 2020
The current count of cases of COVID-19 in the United States is available on CDC’s webpage
Patients with COVID-19 have had mild to severe respiratory illness with symptoms of fever, cough, shortness of breath.
Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Prevention (CDC)

Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
Stay home when you are sick.
Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.
Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds
If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.
EPA’s Registered Antimicrobial Products for Use Against Novel Coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, the Cause of COVID-19

CDC: Environmental Cleaning and Disinfection Recommendations

Coronavirus Actions by States: What You Need to Know (National Governors Association)

The National Governors Association has compiled information on what each state is doing to prevent the spread of COVID-19. As state-by-state responses to the pandemic have differed, this website provides helpful links to statewide emergency declarations, travel restrictions, shelter-at-home requests, school and non-essential business closures, and other non-federal actions.

Getting Your Workplace Ready for COVID-19 (WHO)

These low-cost measures will help prevent the spread of infections in your workplace, such as colds, flu and stomach bugs, and protect your customers, contractors and employees. Employers should start doing these things now, even if COVID-19 has not arrived in the communities where they operate. They can already reduce working days lost due to illness and stop or slow the spread of COVID-19 if it arrives at one of your workplaces

Risk Management and Preparedness
Food Industry Recommended Protocols When Employee/Customer Tests Positive for COVID- 19

Food production facilities, distributors and wholesalers are part of our nation’s “critical infrastructure” and must remain operational to feed the country. Inconsistent approaches to reacting to an employee who tests positive for COVID-19 has the potential to jeopardize our food system. This document recommends a consistent approach in how a company can continue operations in the event an individual has tested positive, given the global COVID-19 pandemic and high transmissibility of this respiratory virus from person to person.

CISA Insights: Risk Management for Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19)

This product is for executives to help them think through physical, supply chain, and cybersecurity issues that may arise from the spread of Novel Coronavirus, or COVID-19.

Coronavirus Preparedness Checklist (FMI)

Identify and Contact local health and agriculture officials
Develop an infectious disease prevention strategy
Coronavirus Preparedness for the Food Industry (FMI)

Communicate with your customers the steps your business is taking to ensure their safety
Be aware and accommodate consumer behavioral shifts and a run on certain items
If available, provide additional shopping options for consumers (i.e. curbside pickup, click-and-collect)
Place additional hand sanitizers or other protective items around stores for employees and customers
Consider modifying store hours if staffing becomes difficult
Employee health policies should be re-examined and updated to make sure that ill employees, or those who have ill family members, stay home
Food Safety
Food Safety and the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)

These resources are available to industry members and consumers on Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) and food safety.

FNS Program Guidance on Human Pandemic Response

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is the lead federal agency for federal pandemic response. Federal interagency partners support HHS, as requested, to assist state, local, tribal, and territorial partners in their pandemic preparedness and response activities. In some cases, responding to a public health emergency such as a human pandemic will require social distancing by keeping people from gathering in groups, including keeping children home from school and childcare in order to slow the spread of an infection.

Food Products: Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Frequently Asked Questions (FDA)

Q: Should food facilities (grocery stores, manufacturing facilities, restaurants, etc.) perform any special cleaning or sanitation procedures for COVID-19?
A: CDC recommends routine cleaning of all frequently touched surfaces in the workplace, such as workstations, countertops, and doorknobs. Use the cleaning agents that are usually used in these areas and follow the directions on the label. CDC does not recommend any additional disinfection beyond routine cleaning at this time. Restaurants and retail food establishments are regulated at the state and local level. State, local, and tribal regulators use the Food Code published by the FDA to develop or update their own food safety rules. Generally, FDA-regulated food manufacturers are required to maintain clean facilities, including, as appropriate, clean and sanitized food contact surfaces, and to have food safety plans in place.   Food safety plans include a hazards analysis and risk-based preventive controls and include procedures for maintaining clean and sanitized facilities and food contact surfaces.
Q: Is food imported to the United States from China and other countries affected by coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), at risk of spreading COVID-19?
A: Currently, there is no evidence to support transmission of COVID-19 associated with imported goods and there are no reported cases of COVID-19 in the United States associated with imported goods.
Q: Are food products produced in the United States a risk for the spread of COVID-19?
A: There is no evidence to suggest that food produced in the United States can transmit COVID-19.
Q: Can I get sick with COVID-19 from touching food, the food packaging, or food contact surfaces, if the coronavirus was present on it?
A: Currently there is no evidence of food or food packaging being associated with transmission of COVID-19.  Like other viruses, it is possible that the virus that causes COVID-19 can survive on surfaces or objects. For that reason, it is critical to follow the 4 key steps of food safety—clean, separate, cook, and chill.
Q: Can I get COVID-19 from a food worker handling my food?
A: Currently, there is no evidence of food or food packaging being associated with transmission of COVID-19. However, the virus that causes COVID-19 is spreading from person-to-person in some communities in the U.S. The CDC recommends that if you are sick, stay home until you are better and no longer pose a risk of infecting others. Anyone handling, preparing and serving food should always follow safe food handling procedures, such as washing hands and surfaces often.
Questions About the Safety of Fresh Fruits and Vegetables in Grocery Stores (Purdue University)

Employment and Labor
Employer Obligations and Resources Regarding New Federally Required Paid Family Leave and Paid Sick Leave as a Result of COVID-19 (Conn Maciel Carey LLP)

NGA’s outside counsel, Conn Maciel Carey LLP, has provided a guidance document to help employers with fewer than 500 employees comply with the recently passed and signed into law Family First Coronavirus Response Act (H.R. 6201). In addition, the document also provides answers for employers to the following questions as it relates to workforce questions surrounding COVID-19 and protecting your company.

Equal Employment Opportunity Commission Provides Guidance on What Actions Employers May Take to Address the Impact of COVID-19

These resources available to industry members and consumers on Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) and food safety.

Resources for Workers and Employers on COVID-19 (OSHA)

OSHA standards and directives (instructions for compliance officers) and other related information that may apply to worker exposure to novel coronavirus, COVID-19. There is no specific OSHA standard covering COVID-19. However, some OSHA requirements may apply to preventing occupational exposure to COVID-19.

U.S. Department of Labor Offers Guidance For Preparing Workplaces for Coronavirus

How Employers Can Respond to Coronavirus (Conn Maciel Carey LLP)

Employers are encouraged to communicate with their employees about COVID-19 to educate them about the virus, and where they may be able to find resources to protect themselves
For those employers that do not already have protocols on how to respond to infectious diseases, the development of such procedures is highly encouraged (view a sample Standard Operating Procedure for Infectious Disease)
Employers need to be extremely cautious about sharing any health information related to COVID-19 diagnosis.
Employers should proscribe to a general prohibition against sharing information about an employee’s health condition with managers, supervisors, and other employees
If an employee is on a leave of absence associated with coronavirus, however, employers can notify managers, supervisors, and other employees that an employee (but not who) is on a leave of absence that is non-disciplinary in nature
Employers are also encouraged to review their remote work and telework policies, and to promptly address any leave or accommodation requests from employees
Employers should continue to monitor the information and recommendations from the CDC, OSHA, the State Department, and other federal, state, and local government agencies involved in the response.
Transportation and Supply Chain
Hours of Service Relief for Commercial Vehicle Drivers: Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration Emergency Declaration (FMCSA)

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) issued a national emergency declaration to provide hours-of-service regulatory relief to commercial vehicle drivers transporting emergency relief in response to the nationwide Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.

Trucking: Sample Critical Infrastructure Certification

If your wholesaler or supplier needs access for deliveries, please have them print and sign this certification. Intended to be used in trucks and other delivery vehicles if needed in areas where access is restricted. This document certifies that this vehicle is transporting a shipment of food and agricultural products within a sector that has been designated as critical infrastructure, the continued operation of which is vital for security, national economic security, national public health, and safety.

Resources for Small Businesses
Small Business Administration Offering Economic Injury Disaster Loans (SBA)

The U.S. Small Business Administration is offering designated states and territories low-interest federal disaster loans for working capital to small businesses suffering substantial economic injury as a result of the Coronavirus (COVID-19).[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]