Is it the right time to reopen food bars?
For years, I had a near-daily ritual of visiting the hot bar and salad bar at the grocery store across the street. It was not a cost efficient habit, but convenient nevertheless. The novel coronavirus pandemic ended my routine.
As essential retailers retooled their operations to continue doing business safely, my local grocer replaced its salad and hot bars with pre-prepared carry-out offerings. Fast forward to last week. I walked in and went for a pre-prepared salad, now the cornerstone of my bi-weekly, masked in-store shopping trip, and found the food bars open. It felt like the first touch of normality entering my life in 11 months. Still, I’m not sure if it is a good thing.
Since experts ruled out contaminated surfaces as a significant source of COVID-19 transmission months ago, and the store was virtually empty, I felt comfortable filling up. I realized, though, that selecting food and wrestling with closing a plastic container were taking time and distracting me from my usually vigilant focus on social distance. I imagined peak hours bringing problems.
The grocer’s move is undoubtedly tied to Illinois’ steadily declining COVID-19 cases and deaths.
In the city of Chicago, where I live, cases and deaths in long-term care facilities are at their lowest since August, according to the Chicago Tribune. There remain, however, significant unknowns about how the pandemic will progress in the coming months.
Researchers worry that “escape mutations” may allow new viral strains to partially or entirely evade the vaccines on the market. What this means for case counts, vaccine strategies or timelines is not clear.
While globally, Israel in particular appears to be outmaneuvering the virus with comprehensive vaccination, the U.S. lags behind that. Federal and state officials place widespread vaccine availability as being months away.
We have already seen how easy it is to get ahead of ourselves when there appears to be light at the end of the tunnel. Last summer we often spoke about the pandemic as if it was ending, despite the CDC cautioning that winter promised an unprecedented public health crisis. I hope that normality is finally within reach, but fear that grocers could again put customers in the wrong mindset by easing up early.
- Researchers concerned ‘escape mutation’ found in COVID-19 variants may help virus evade antibodies – Fox 6 Now
- CDC director warns second wave of coronavirus is likely to be even more devastating – The Washington Post
- When will Illinois move to Phase 5 of reopening plan? – WGN
- Coronavirus in Illinois updates: 1,585 new probable and confirmed cases of COVID-19, 35 deaths reported Sunday – Chicago Tribune
- Illinois Coronavirus Updates: Wide Vaccine Availability ‘Months Away,’ Ezike Says – NBC 5 Chicago
- Pfizer-BioNTech Shot Stops Covid Spread, Israeli Study Shows – Bloomberg
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Is now the right or wrong time for grocery stores to start reopening food bars? Do you see retailers changing how they operate self-serve food bars once they are able to reopen them?