Grocery stores adding ‘sneeze guards’ at checkout lanes

Grocery stores across the country are installing “sneeze guards” to help separated cashiers and customers during the coronavirus pandemic.

The large plastic sheets are clear and may include a sticker running along the top explaining why they have been installed.

The guards can help by creating a physical barrier between the cashier and customer during checkout and payment.

Standard social distancing procedures suggest at least a 6 foot space between people, but checkout lanes at grocery and other big box stores tend to make that sort of separation impossible.

Thousands of the guards are already installed or in the process of being installed at Whole Foods Market, Albertsons, H.E.B., Kroger and Walmart locations, among others (the guards are also being put up in many of the stores branded with different names under these parent companies).

Medical experts note that the checkout guards are not technically approved medical devices, but acknowledge they can help prevent the spread of germs between customers and staff who might cough, sneeze or even omit particles or spit while talking.

It’s also worth noting that the guards do not directly prevent the spread of germs via high touch points such as cash, credit card terminals or receipts.

The name “sneeze guard” draws its name from similar plastic or glass panels that are often installed over buffets or other food service areas and are often required by health and food safety laws.

These installations are designed to prevent customers from coughing, sneezing or otherwise spreading airborne germs onto food while hovering over it — but notably do not prevent the spread of viruses or bacteria via serving utensils that may be out on the buffet.

Buffet sneeze guards are not a foolproof way to prevent the spread of all airborne particles.