Shoppers in South Portland and Cape Elizabeth have said they have noticed that grocery stores are not enforcing face covering as much as some believe they should.

On July 8, an executive order from Gov. Janet Mills states that retail stores in Cumberland County, among others, with more than 50,000 square feet of shopping, must require face masks.

While many shoppers, like Tom, at Hannaford supermarket in Auburn last week afternoon, were wearing masks, starting last Friday it was officially mandated that everyone entering a grocery store, and other businesses, must wear a face covering of some sort. Russ Dillingham photo/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

Hannaford’s official statement on face masks that can be found at the corporation’s website, states, “We are requiring all customers who are medically able to wear a face covering to do so while shopping in our stores. We will be providing free masks for customers who need one.”

A statement provided by Teresa Edington, external communication and community relations manager for Shaw’s, said that the company believes the health and safety of all who enter its stores is top priority.

“We require our associates to wear masks, and across a majority of our stores we already require customers to wear face coverings to comply with local ordinances,” the statement said. “Effective July 21, 2020, we require customers across all of our locations to wear face coverings when shopping with us, for their protection and for that of our associates. We appreciate everyone’s diligence, cooperation, and support as we all work together to get through these difficult times as safely as possible.”

Store directors are asked to greet customers who are not wearing masks and inform them of the requirement, said Edington in a written statement.

“If we have an appropriate face covering available for sale, we will inform the customer of the option, as well as remind them of Instacart home delivery in select store locations.” the statement said. “If a customer claims an exemption, we allow them to complete their shopping trip. If a customer refuses to wear a mask and to leave the store, we permit the customer to continue shopping in order to avoid conflicts that would put the store director or other associates and customers at risk.”

Paul Seidman, a Cape Elizabeth resident, said he believes Hannaford Corporation’s statement is a “very sad and callous joke.”

“They don’t check who has medical issues and wearing a face shield or doing curbside pickup could be mandatory for the less than 1 percent who can’t wear masks,” he said. “They also let individual customers decide who needs one. Their policy is obviously misleading and flagrantly untrue. In my experience, the number of patrons without masks has only been increasing.”

The last time Seidman said he shopped at Hannaford, he said that he was positioned in the store’s self-checkout station less than six feet from someone who was not wearing a mask.

“Because the store didn’t turn off the middle one, someone without a mask checked out there, standing four feet from me for 10 minutes,” he said. “I maneuvered my cart between us but that still wasn’t six feet of distance. Her ability to do this was due to the manager’s negligence. That’s on them, not her. She could have been contagious and not known. Within a few days I became symptomatic, called my doctor, and got tested at a clinic. Fortunately, the test came back negative. But this isn’t about me.”

Seidman isn’t the only one with these concerns. On Hannaford Supermarket’s Facebook page, comments on recent posts have been questioning the store’s policy.

On June 22, local shoppers on the Facebook page for Hannaford’s Cottage Road location in South Portland commented about their issues with other patrons not wearing a mask.

User Shane Bee wrote, “While this is the location I typically shop at, I was dismayed to find that for the past two Sundays, no one was counting customers entering and leaving and no one was watching customers leave their used carts inside where the sign says sanitized carts … The Mill Creek (Cottage Road) store is even worse, which is why I don’t go there anymore, even though it is much closer to my home.”

Another user, Christine Collins, commented under the same post, saying she is “disturbed” by Hannaford’s policy regarding masks.

“Surely your associates and patrons deserve a more responsible policy,” she wrote. “If nothing else, it seems an affront to health care workers who are forced to put their personal safety as well as that of their families on the line. Surely we don’t want an uptick in COVID cases as we attempt to reopen Maine’s economy. Hannaford should take a stand.”

Seidman said that he believes people who enter a store without a mask is not at fault, but rather the stores that let them in have poor policies.

Although Seidman said he is planning to refrain from shopping at Hannaford, he believes that Shaw’s should also “get with the program.”

“Regarding Shaw’s here, I called a representative (on July 23),” he said. “They also allow mask-less patrons to enter and I can’t even find a policy on their website.”

Attempts to reach a Hannaford representative were unsuccessful. Calls to Shaw’s were referred to its media information number.

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