Germantown Wegmans Speaks Out Against Possible Upcoming Restrictions

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Germantown Wegmans Speaks Out Against Possible Upcoming Restrictions

At 1pm on Tuesday, December 15th the Montgomery County Council will introduce, hold a public hearing, and vote on a resolution and Board of Health regulation that would approve the amended version of Executive Order 139-20 that would put further Covid restrictions in place for the county.

If approved, the restrictions would go into effect at 5pm on the same day (Tuesday, 12/15).

The store manager of the only Wegmans location in Montgomery County wrote a letter to its customers with concern about reducing the occupancy of super markets to 150 people– citing that the number is just 5% of the Germantown store’s occupancy.

Many other local businesses expressed concern about the effect the new restrictions could have on their ability to survive the winter.

The full letter from Wegmans can be seen below.

 

On Tuesday December 15, the Montgomery County Council is voting on reducing the occupancy of supermarkets to 150 people, which is only 5% of our Germantown store’s capacity. While there is no doubt this is well-intentioned, we believe the restrictions will limit the ability of Montgomery County residents to obtain the food and medications they need.

Since the start of the pandemic, we have been quick to employ new safety measures, including Plexiglas barriers, enhanced sanitation, signage and social distancing cues, employee wellness screenings, and masking for employees and customers.

Limiting the number of people in our stores is key to keeping our stores a safe place to shop. Since November 10, we have operated at the required 25% occupancy, which allows us to effectively serve our customers, while also allowing them to socially distance.

What the County Executive has proposed is a one-size-fits-all maximum of 150 people for every retail establishment, regardless of size. With this approach, a 30,000 square foot store can allow the same number of customers as our 124,000 square foot store. We have shown our store can easily accommodate many more customers and still allow plenty of room for social distancing.

As we focus on making our stores safe and accessible during this difficult time, we are concerned about the unintended consequences of the County Council’s impending mandate:

  • A 150-person limit will force customers to wait in long lines, in winter weather, to shop.
  • If an individual chooses to shop in a smaller store that is subject to the same occupancy limit, they will be in a more crowded space than they would be in a larger store.
  • Most counties have been operating at a 50% occupancy limit for retail, and some are now reducing that to 25%. Giving Montgomery County residents an incentive to travel elsewhere to obtain food and other essential items works against all other measures to contain the spread of the Coronavirus.
  • We know from experience, if people think they won’t be able to get food and other essential items, it induces a higher level of anxiety and frustration. Imposing further capacity limits will result in lines, which will only exacerbate the problem, particularly as pictures of the lines inevitably appear on social media.
  • Such restrictive occupancy limits will limit the availability of our grocery delivery and curbside pickup service.

We have demonstrated that the current retail occupancy limits, along with all other requirements, work to contain the spread of the virus. We have successfully operated within these limits for more than a month, including over Thanksgiving, with no concerns from the Department of Health. Imposing one-size-fits-all requirements on essential retail stores would have significant adverse consequences for the residents of Montgomery County. We encourage the county to maintain the current 25% occupancy limits.

Please voice your concerns and encourage maintaining our current 25% occupancy limit by visiting the county’s website or sending an email to [email protected].

Thank you,

Christopher Sargent
Store Manager, Germantown

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2 Comments on "Germantown Wegmans Speaks Out Against Possible Upcoming Restrictions"

  1. Excellent letter. Sadly, our County Executive feels the need to ‘over do’. His handling of this pandemic ‘pales’ compared to the well-thought-out efforts executed by Prince Georges County Executive Angela Also-Brooks and D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser. Customize the number of people allowed in the larger stores so people can buy food & necessaries.

  2. Based on the guidance below, it seems like Wegmans can apply for a waiver to allow them to exceed the 150 person threshold…

    https://montgomerycomd.blogspot.com/2020/12/new-covid-19-safety-restrictions-on.html

    Maximum capacity for retail establishments is reduced to one person per 200 square feet of retail space—not to exceed a maximum of 150 people. Large retail establishments have until Dec. 23 to obtain a letter of approval to continue to have more than 150 people in their retail space. Businesses that request a letter of approval must submit a business plan that details how they will monitor the number of people in the building at any given time. The plan also must provide information on how social distancing will be ensured at the entrance, exit and check-out lines. Businesses must also provide detailed modified staffing strategies to reduce employee exposure. In order to be approved by Dec. 23, requests for a letter of approval must be submitted by 5 p.m. on Monday, Dec. 21. Requests can be submitted on the COVID-19 website under the Executive Order portal. Effective at 5 p.m. on Dec. 23, businesses that do not have a letter of approval to exceed 150 people will be limited to one person per 200 square feet of retail space up to a maximum of 150 people.

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