GREENSBORO — The next phase in COVID-19 protection is clear.

Literally.

Grocery stores are installing protective plastic shields at checkouts to help keep cashiers and shoppers from infecting one another with the coronavirus.

As North Carolina residents are ordered to stay home and non-essential retailers must close to combat the spread of the coronavirus, groceries remain open to provide food and other needs.

And the workers who keep those stores running are on the front lines when it comes to risking their own health for the sake of others.

Food Lion is the latest grocery chain to announce it is installing protective sneeze guards at checkout lanes and customer-service counters, joining Winston-Salem-based Lowes Foods, Greensboro-based The Fresh Market, Harris-Teeter, Sprouts, Lidl and Publix. (Information has been corrected to fix an error. See correction at end of story. 10 a.m. March 31, 2020)

Target and Walmart, department stores with grocery sections, are also adding protective guards at checkouts and pharmacy lanes. Target is adding protective guards at it electronics and service desks, as well as the optical department.

If you prefer a reusable tote to single-use plastic bags provided by the store, be prepared to bag your own groceries.

Harris-Teeter, Target, The Fresh Market and Trader Joe’s are asking customers to bag their own groceries if they bring reusable bags.

In an effort to accommodate seniors and those whose immune systems are compromised, many stores are offering special morning shopping hours exclusive to those high-risk groups.

This week, Food Lion began offering one-hour shopping Monday and Wednesday mornings for those ages 60 and older and those who are immunocompromised. Harris-Teeter set aside two hours every Monday and Thursday morning for senior shoppers.

And grocery stores are putting some protective power into the hands of its employees. Several stores, like Food Lion and Lidl, are allowing their workers the option of wearing a mask.

Grocery stores have seen their business soar as authorities urge people go out only for essentials, leading them to stay and cook more at home. The stores have been extremely busy and forced to close earlier to give workers more time to clean and restock as products fly off the shelves.

Many stores are cleaning shopping carts as they are returned.

And nearly all grocery chains are suspending the option to return items.

The closing of dine-in options in North Carolina not only hit restaurants but affect grocery stores as well.

Whole Foods is no longer offering self-serve food kiosks and has closed cafe seating. You’ll have to bring your own caffeine if shopping Target. The chain has closed its in-store Starbucks coffee kiosks.

Correction: Lowes Foods is based in Winston-Salem. The information was wrong when the story first posted at 7 p.m. March 30, 2020.

Contact at 336-373-7145 or at carl.wilson@greensboro.com. Follow on Twitter at Short_OrdersNR and on Facebook.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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