If you want to shop for food at The Fresh Market in Center Valley without wearing a face covering, the last day to do that–for now–is Monday.
In a weekend update about modifications the company is making in response to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, Fresh Market said that beginning Tuesday, April 14, all guests will be required to wear some type of face covering when they visit a store.
Employees are already required to wear face coverings, the company said in the update, which noted that “the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has recently updated its guidance regarding face masks, recommending that people wear cloth face coverings in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain, especially in areas of significant community-based transmission.”
Instructions for how to make a cloth face covering–which can be worn in lieu of a medical mask, which are generally in short supply–can be found on the CDC’s website.
“Please wash or sanitize your hands before and after putting on a face covering,” The Fresh Market advised customers. “Make sure it fits snugly and includes multiple layers of fabric. When removing your face covering, always grab it by the straps, not the mouth area.”
The new requirement represents a turnabout for the company, which two weeks ago said it did not to allow employees to wear face masks, although CDC guidelines have since changed.
At the time, The Fresh Market said employees didn’t need to wear face masks because they “are only recommended for individuals who are sick to help contain the virus, or for the health care workers treating them. Because we do not permit any team member who is sick (even with a cold) to work in our store, we have advised all of our team members to not wear face masks for the simple reason that they are not effective as a protective measure.”
It has been more than a week since Pennsylvania governor Tom Wolf asked all residents to wear face masks in public, to help slow the spread of the novel coronavirus.
New Jersey governor Phil Murphy has gone further by requiring the use of face masks or coverings in all retail establishments in the state, including convenience stores such as Wawa, which last week shared information about how it’s enforcing the requirement.
The Fresh Market store in Center Valley–which is located in the Promenade Shops at Saucon Valley–was cleaned extensively after an employee there tested positive for COVID-19 on March 29.
“Everything that we’ve been doing for the past month is for the safety of our employees and our guests,” said Fresh Market communications director Meghan Flynn at the time. “We would not be open if we weren’t confident that we have followed all the protocols set forth by the CDC and public health recommendations.”
Flynn also noted that all Fresh Market stores were intalling Plexiglass barriers at front end checkout lanes and promoting social distancing requirements with visual guidance and in-store signage.
According to Sunday’s company update on changes related to COVID-19, Fresh Market has also begun to limit the number of guests allowed in its stores at one time, which is another way companies are encouraging shoppers to stay at least six feet apart from each other. Giant on Monday began to limit the number of customers allowed in its stores, and Wegmans, Shoprite and other supermarket chains have done the same.
The Fresh Market said it is working to supply its staff with a steady supply of face masks, and noted in its update that it is continuing to review decisions about personal protection equipment “on a daily basis, as guidance from the health authorities evolves.”
The Center Valley store is open daily from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m., with the first hour of each day reserved for seniors and individuals considered to be most at risk from the coronavirus to shop. Many other companies have also designated the first hour of their daily operating hours as a time when the elderly and/or immunocompromised individuals can shop separately from the general population, and immediately following overnight cleaning and disinfecting of stores.
The Fresh Market, which is based in Greensboro, N.C., operates 159 stores in 22 states.
In addition to the Center Valley, Lehigh County, store, the company has several stores in the Philadelphia area and two in northern New Jersey.