Should grocery store workers be considered first responders?


INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. — Some major grocers and food retail groups are calling on elected leaders to designate grocery workers as first responders during this pandemic.

Many stores are taking more precautions to protect employees but feel the government could help.

Amber Winters said she has a poor immune system, but she’s still working as a grocer in Indiana right now.

“You either go or you don’t get paid,” said Winters.

Her store is taking extra precautions to stop the spread of COVID-19, like limiting the number of customers in the building at one time.

“We just got sneeze guards on all the registers, and they started providing the disposable face masks for everyone who wanted to wear them and gloves,” said Winters.

However, she fears it isn’t enough. People are still coming in without masks, touching everything and in some cases, shopping for long periods of time. She would like to see a mask requirement or some kind of time limit for customers.

“Because the longer you are in the store, the more people you could be potentially putting at risk, and you could be putting yourself at risk,” said Winters.

Kroger and the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union are calling on the state and federal government to designate grocery store workers as extended first responders or emergency personnel during this time. This is designed to give them priority access to personal protective equipment like masks and gloves.

Reporter Kayla Sullivan asked the governor and State Health Commissioner Dr. Box if this was a possibility.

Box said there aren’t even enough supplies for healthcare workers yet.

“I would love to have masks to give to everybody, but I would really encourage those essential workers like those in food markets to be able to make those masks and to use those masks,” said Box. “And again, it’s not just about the masks, it’s about the hand washing. That is so critical.”

Winters would like more to be done to keep workers safe.

“Protect us because if you have something and you get us sick, then that’s less people that you have to take care of your needs,” said Winters.

Regardless of whether the government decides to make this designation, Winters said you can still treat workers with respect. Some have thanked her, but others have been rude.

“I’ve had some people angry with me because we don’t have or we are out of the things that they want, or we’ve put limits on things that you want,” said Winters.

She’s asking for patience, and then when this is all over, a break.

“I’m hoping maybe vacation or something at some point when things get back to normal,” said Winters.

Reporter Kayla Sullivan took a poll on Twitter. Out of 400 participants, 68% said grocery store workers should be considered first responders.

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