How Grocery Stores Are Handling The COVID-19 Pandemic

During the COVID-19 pandemic, grocery stores have had to make some adjustments to accommodate social distancing practices, but will they need to change their business model entirely? Attorney Paul Harding of Martin, Harding & Mazzotti, LLP is on the radio with WVMT discussing these issues and more. Please give it a listen or read the transcript below.

Man 1: We’re speaking with Paul Harding from Martin, Harding & Mazzotti. We appreciate his insight. And Paul, I wanna talk to you about how grocery stores are handling this pandemic right now. As we look around at businesses, they’ve been forced to kind of change their business model. Restaurants, you get curbside pickup, you order online. Grocery stores, though, still have their doors open, are letting people inside, and I’ve heard complaints from people where people are not social distancing enough. So, there are people who are uncomfortable.

Paul: One of the greater joys that I have during the day, go grocery…you know, was not on my list five months ago, four months ago. But now, I get to go out. I get to see people. And really, that’s one of our things that we enjoy to do. So, but the world’s changed.

And, you know, even in the last couple weeks, if you’ve been in a grocery store, you’ve noticed that the aisles say, “Oh, you can only go one way. Oh, you’re going the wrong way. You’re going in the exit.” And it’s a really tricky thing to do. Because, you know, you’re in an aisle and you go to buy something, you realize, “Oh, no, I walked past the very thing I came to get. But I can’t necessarily go backwards here, because I’m gonna get in someone’s space.” And so, I’ve witnessed this, you know. You do it one way. Go all the way down, all the way around properly, around the one way, or do it… And so, ultimately here, grocery stores are still allowing people in. I think they’re gonna continue to do it. People do curbside pickup, but they’re just not ready to do hundreds and hundreds of people curbside pickup.

Curt: But you’re right, Paul. Taking a trip to the grocery store, who would’ve thought that it would come to this point where it’s basically a matter of high anxiety to take a trip to the grocery store now?

Paul: And fun. And there’s my out time, you know. Now I’m kinda like, you know, kinda like, I’m red alert, but I’m also going, “Wow. Hey. There’s people. New people. I haven’t seen them in a while. You know, I haven’t seen new people.” So, yeah.

You’ve got this thing where, in Vermont the other day, they had a little rally in Montpelier, and people were honking their horns and telling the governor, “Hey, you’re restricting our First Amendment rights.” And we’re seeing this around the country. We’re seeing people go and say, “Listen, guys, enough’s enough. Yes, it’s a pandemic. Yes, people are getting sick, but we gotta balance it with our First Amendment rights.” And so, you know, you can feel that there’s a bit of a pressure cooker building. You know, people want, you know, they want to go off the gas pedal, not go any further towards restriction.

Man 1: And it’s a delicate line. Let’s talk about one of the things that we all learned, kind of as kids, right, that First Amendment, your freedom of speech. Yet, I can’t yell “fire” in a crowded theatre, unless there’s an actual fire. Right, so, public safety, public health, does seem to take precedence. And right now, people are frustrated in the fact that public health, it’s frustrating their normal routines.

Paul: It is. And they’re looking at this thing going, “You know, it just didn’t hit the way we thought it was gonna hit, if we were gonna be in this situation. If we thought we were gonna be this restricted, you know, we’d think that there would be bodies everywhere, you know. And we’re not seeing that so therefore, why are we being restricted this much?” And, of course, the counter argument is, “Hey, you’re not seeing this level of carnage, because of all the smart things we’re doing.” But it’s definitely reaching the point, especially in Vermont, you know, where the numbers are manageable and low. And I think, you know, that the restrictions are going to be eased off there, far greater than New York City, you know, something not so…and any of the real big cities.

Curt: And Paul, where is that line? Where does that fine line end, where people’s right to protest gets in, sort of, bumps up against the government’s edicts that, “We don’t want ya out there. You’ve gotta be staying away from each other,” how do those two play against each other in a legal sense?

Paul: It’s friction. You know, that’s what happens. And really, some of the things in our country, if you look back historically, the friction between those groups tend to, you know, define, you know, what is the line. And so here, you know, you got folks who say, “I’ll never go out to dinner again.” Like, that’s it. The idea of high-fiving someone is equivalent to a death sentence ever. Like they’re just taking this…

Then the other people who are going, “It’s the flu. What? Why are we doing…I don’t even know anyone who’s got it.” Right, so, you’ve got these fine lines, and ultimately, there ya go. We elect these public officials, and, you know, definitely a difficult position for them. Because when they ease up these restrictions, people are gonna die of COVID-19, and there’s gonna be people out there that say that blood is on your hands. And then, the flip side of it is if they stick around too long, they say, “The economy is gone because of you. You kept it going too long. You wiped us out. We couldn’t recover. And now there’s, you know, suicides and all these other things.”

So, being in politics right now, wow. It is probably, generationally, one of the trickiest times that I’ve ever seen.

Curt: Glad I retired from politics, Paul.

Paul: Yeah. I’m glad I never entered. Yeah.

Man 1: Yeah, yeah. It’s good…

Curt: You were wiser than me.

Man 1: Curt is very happy not to be in politics at this particular moment. Again, we do appreciate your insight. Paul Harding from Martin, Harding & Mazzotti. Remember, check out what they can do for you and how they can help you at And we’ll be right back.

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