Grocery stores on the frontline

A woman shops for avocados at La Michoacana Meat Market wearing her face mask as Brownsville residents continue to cook at home during the Cameron County shelter-in-place order due to COVID-19 pandemic.

Disposed gloves and face masks on the parking lot and little children touching everything are some of the things grocery workers have to deal with every day to continue to provide the essential food and services the community needs during this COVID-19 pandemic.

Following the guidelines by elected officials, grocery stores are implementing more and more measures to keep not only the customers safe, but also the employees such as mandatory face covering, only 10 people allowed inside the store and even checking the temperature of every customer before they go in.

Mauricio Garcia, assistant manager at La Michoacana Meat Market, said that while there are some customers who are not taking the virus seriously and attempt to enter the store with no face covering, there are other customers who are very careful and very conscious with the situation, making the job, and the environment, at grocery stores safer.

“We principally have encountered with two types of customers. One, are the ones who are very conscious of the situation and don’t argue with the measures that have been taken and the other type are the ones who are very mad with the measures and are not following the situation seriously, they don’t believe in the virus and get mad when we ask them to wear a face covering, to maintain social distancing,” he said.

Garcia said the situation that worries him the most is that customers leave their used gloves and face masks in the shopping carts and on the floor at the parking lot. He said everyone should dispose their protective equipment safely to avoid infecting others.

“That worries me a lot because there are people who don’t have face masks and gloves and they pick them up from the floor to use it,” he said. “I think that we should all follow what the authorities are asking us to do and we have to be very careful with this situation.”

Garcia said most of the customers are now following the recommendations and are no longer hoarding on items. He said at the beginning of the pandemic customers would get mad if they had to limit the number of items they could buy such as for toilet paper, eggs and milk.

“Now since we have the signs that have the limits customers are understanding. But at the beginning yes, when all this pandemic started, the customers were getting mad because they wanted to take an exaggerated amount of things,” he said. “People are being more conscious and luckily that’s not a problem we have anymore.”

Garcia said he hopes everyone who is able to stay home stays home and follows the guidelines to keep the community safe. He said everyone should protect themselves to stop spreading the virus.

“The truth is we would also want to stay home but thank God we have the opportunity to still be working because we know a lot of people doesn’t have the opportunity, but we also understand that we are very vulnerable to this virus since we are here in contact with a lot of people that we don’t know if they are infected or not,” he said. “My recommendation is that for those who are able to stay home, please stay home.”

Jessica Chao, who works at a Lopez Supermarket, said she feels safer now that it is mandatory for customers to wear face coverings. She said one of the main issues she has encountered is that whole families want to do their grocery shopping together.

“Sometimes it seems like they are just missing the family dog to buy groceries,” she said. “Please don’t bring little children or elderly people, there’s no need for three or four people from the same family to come buy groceries.”

Even though there are several signs in both English and Spanish that say customers without face covering will not be allowed, some still get mad and don’t want to follow the guidelines. While most customers have been nice, Chao said they have to be more conscious of what they do while out in the community.

“There are times when customers want to enter without a face mask we tell them that they have to wear it and some of them get mad but most of them are nice and go to their car and get it,” she said.

“Sometimes when I go to the parking lot to bring the carts, I see disposed gloves on the carts and on the floor. Please just think a little bit about how you are affecting us, the employees, and also the community by leaving the gloves because you’re contaminating.”

Like most essential workers who wish they could stay home, too, Chao said she hopes everyone who is able to stays home so the pandemic ends soon.

“Stay home, continue to stay home if you can, because it is hard for us who have to come to work and then we have to go back home and put our family at risk,” she said.

nreyna@brownsvilleherald.com