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Some Walmart, Costco, Target stores barred from selling nonessential items

Business Insider logo Business Insider 4/8/2020 Mary Hanbury
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Local governments around the US are starting to take more draconian measures to prevent the spread of coronavirus by banning "essential" stores such as grocery chains or big-box retailers from selling nonessential items such as clothing and electronics.

These stores, which have been allowed to stay open during state lockdowns across the US because they are deemed as "essential" businesses by selling groceries or offering pharmacy services, for example, are now required by law in some parts of the US to remove any nonessential items from their stores or rope off areas of the store so that customers are unable to access these products.

The state of Vermont is among those clamping down on this. At the end of March, the state governor issued an executive order banning big-box stores from selling nonessential items.

"Large 'big box' retailers generate significant shopping traffic by virtue of their size and the variety of goods offered in a single location," Vermont's Agency of Commerce and Community Development Secretary Lindsay Kurrle said in a statement to the press at the time.

She added: "This volume of shopping traffic significantly increases the risk of further spread of this dangerous virus to Vermonters and the viability of Vermont's health care system. We are directing these stores to put public health first and help us reduce the number of shoppers."

The only way that customers can shop for these nonessential items is by using online delivery services or curbside pickup.

The board of commissioners in Howard County, Indiana enforced a similar rule earlier in March, which also prevented any businesses in the area that were deemed to be "essential" from selling nonessential items.

In a press release announcing the news, the board said that it had received complaints from other businesses, which had been forced to close as they sold mostly nonessential items, that it was unfair for stores to continue selling these products.

Retail workers in the area also complained that customers were congregating in stores and browsing nonessential goods because they were "bored at home," thus filling up the aisles and putting these workers at greater risk.

There have been reports elsewhere of other counties putting similar rules into play.

While some shoppers have taken a dislike to these new restrictions, others are applauding the change and are encouraging other local governments to do the same.

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