- Several stores have added additional safety precautions ahead of the Black Friday shopping frenzy to protect both customers and employees.
- We spoke to three experts to find out which precautions will actually help.
- The experts agree that enforcing mask-wearing and social distancing are good, but mandates like reducing store hours may be unhelpful or detrimental.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
Several big-name retail stores have added additional in-store safety precautions ahead of the
shopping frenzy, and we spoke to three experts to find out which precautions will actually help the most.
Major stores across the country have implemented a variety of safety mandates to keep shoppers and employees safe on the historically frenzied Black Friday shopping day as coronavirus cases continue to surge in the US. For example, some stores — including JCPenney and Lowe’s— are offering contactless curbside pick-up, and others — such as Home Depot and T.J. Maxx — are requiring face masks.
The three experts we spoke to all agree that contactless curbside pickup and mandating face mask-wearing — retail protocols that have become normalized since the beginning of the pandemic — are beneficial to help stop the spread of COVID-19.
“We have data that show that large congregations of people, especially indoors, will lead to an outbreak,” Dr. Jill Weatherhead, an assistant professor at Baylor College of Medicine, told Business Insider in an interview. “These other strategies [besides mask wearing] are really coming off of the knowledge that if we reduce people being in close contact by doing these other extra steps, hopefully, we can reduce transmission if people choose to go into stores.”
Read more: REI gives its employees a paid day off on Black Friday, but hourly workers say that it’s a ‘marketing move’ and that the company has strayed from its co-op roots
Stephen Kissler, an infectious disease researcher at Harvard’s School of Public Health, thinks the most important action stores can do is limit the number of customers inside — a mandate Walmart recently reinstated — to decrease the chances of a superspreader event. Weatherhead notes that setting a cap on the number of in-store customers will be helpful as long as it doesn’t create crowds of people waiting in close contact outside the store.
Mitigating the possibility of overcrowded stores
Stores like Michaels and Nordstrom will also be limiting store hours. However, Dr. Stanley Perlman, a professor at the University of Iowa’s Carver College of Medicine, states this “may not be helpful if other rules are followed.”
Both Kissler and Weatherhead take this a step further by expressing their concern over the strategy, stating that it may instead “backfire,” according to Kissler.
“If you have more limited store hours, will it then lead to more crowded stores when stores are open?” Weatherhead said. “It doesn’t seem like there would be a benefit to limiting store hours in terms of reducing viral transmission.”
Weatherhead and Kissler suggest that stores should instead take the opposite