Walmart now limiting how many shoppers can enter stores as part of coronavirus response

Kelly Tyko, USA TODAY

Walmart is the latest retailer to announce that it will limit the number of shoppers, in an effort to promote social distancing.

Starting Saturday, stores will "allow no more than five customers for each 1,000 square feet at a given time, roughly 20% of a store’s capacity," the retailer announced Friday as part of its response to the coronavirus pandemic.

While most Walmart stores have two entrances, stores will use a single-entry, which in most cases will be at the grocery entrance, Dacona Smith, executive vice president and chief operating officer of Walmart U.S., wrote in a blog post

Shoppers will be directed to the entrance "where they will be admitted one-by-one and counted," Smith said, noting store staff and signage "will remind customers of the importance of social distancing while they’re waiting to enter a store."

"Once a store reaches its capacity, customers will be admitted inside on a '1-out-1-in' basis," Smith said.

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Smith said that while many customers have followed the advice of the medical community for social distancing and safety, the company has "been concerned to still see some behaviors in our stores that put undue risk on our people." 

"We want to encourage customers to bring the fewest number of people per family necessary to shop, allow for space with other customers while shopping, and practice social distancing while waiting in lines," Smith said, adding that some states and municipalities have set policies regarding crowd control, which has created some confusion. In Vermont, retailers such as Target, Walmart and Costco are now required to limit the sales of nonessential items to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.

Next week, Walmart will "institute one-way movement through our aisles" in a number of stores, Smith said, with direction from store staff and floor markers "to help more customers avoid coming into close contact with others as they shop."

Walmart has made other moves in recent days, including adding sneeze guards to registers, taking employees' temperatures and enabling shoppers to pay for purchases without making contact. The retailer also has cut hours and has a dedicated weekly senior shopping hour on Tuesdays at its 5,000-plus U.S. stores for customers 60 and older.

Other retailers are also limiting the number of shoppers in stores.

Lowe's announced Thursday that it has "developed an app to implement a new customer limit protocol" that managers will use to "monitor foot traffic and limit entrance based on CDC and local guidelines." 

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Costco started limiting shoppers Friday and now will allow no more than two people to enter stores with each membership card.

Target also will monitor the number of shoppers it allows into stores starting Saturday and will add "designated waiting area outside with social distancing markers."

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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Coronavirus crowd control: Walmart limits number of shoppers in stores