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Colorado grocers start requiring employees to wear face masks

“They are at very high risk of spreading this virus to other people.”

DENVER — Some of Colorado’s largest grocery store chains now require employees to wear masks during their shifts to help slow the spread of COVID-19. 

After many viewers asked about some grocery workers not wearing masks over the last couple of weeks, 9NEWS reached out to four companies to see what their policies are.

In recent days, Albertsons-Safeway, Sprouts and Whole Foods began requiring employees to wear masks for their entire shifts. King Soopers said it’s “encouraging” workers to do so.

“These workers, they're scared, they don't have control over their environment,” said UFCW Local 7 President Kim Cordova. “We are trying to work through all of these issues with all of our grocers.”

Stores have had trouble getting PPE and in turn, she said, employees have too. That supply, according to the stores, is starting to trickle in and they're supplying PPE to their employees ahead of shifts now.

“They are at very high risk of spreading this virus to other people,” said 9Health Expert Dr. Payal Kohli. “You are coming into contact with a lot more people, you can’t isolate yourself at home. You can’t do social distancing as much as the rest of us.”

Several of the requirements mandating employees to mask up happened in the last few days -- meaning many employees haven't been wearing one for weeks.

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“They don't have a lot of protection with customers that come right up to them," Cordova said, "and we also don't know if customers coming into the stores are sick themselves." 

Which brings us to customers doing their part. While not required, it’s important for shoppers to do their part and wear a mask too. Grocery stores are one of the few necessary places to be, but that means entering a closed-off space with dozens of strangers.

Kohli said even a homemade cotton mask can help prevent droplets from landing on products or people we may come too close too in the store.

She says shoppers also need to have a plan and “get in and get out” as fast as possible. Touch as few surfaces as possible once inside and wash up when done.

Finally, she says, take your mask off properly. The front of the mask should be considered contaminated. So don’t rest it on your forehead or let it hand below your chin. Take it off and stick it in a brown bag until you're ready to wash it or throw away.

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