Commissary customers and staff must now wear face coverings

Abbie Bennett
April 09, 2020 - 11:46 am

Photo by Julie Mitchell/Army and Air Force Exchange Service

Shoppers and staff at commissaries are now required to wear some form of face covering in order to enter the stores, the Defense Commissary Agency announced Thursday. 

But DeCA doesn't yet have masks for all its employees, so they're being asked to come up with their own face coverings for now. 

The new guidance goes into effect on Friday and the requirements apply to all agency stores and facilities worldwide, even where no local directives have been issued yet, according to retired Rear Adm. Robert Bianchi, Defense Department special assistant for commissary operations. 

"If an installation commander has already issued a directive to require face coverings in DeCA commissaries, this order shall not supersede their policy, and all patrons and employees shall adhere to current rules," Bianchi said in a statement. "Many bases have already imposed this requirement, but at locations where there is no guidance, this is protection of our employees and our customers."

DeCA's requirements fall in line with an April 5 directive from the Pentagon mandating that "all individuals on DoD property, installations and facilities will wear cloth face coverings when they cannot maintain 6 feet of social distance in public areas or work centers." 

On April 3, DeCA announced to its employees it was working to buy and distribute personal protective equipment such as masks to stores "as fast as possible." 

The agency said it was purchasing "high-quality surgical-type masks and gloves" through commercial suppliers for its employees. 

As the supply of masks and gloves head to commissaries worldwide, employees are expected to wear "their own masks or some form of material such as scarves, bandanas, clean T-shirts or cloths to cover the nose and mouth." 

PPE is just part of the preventative measures necessary to prevent COVID-19 spread, though, Army Lt. Col. Angela Parham, DeCA director of health and safety, said. 

"DOD's face covering mandate aligns with CDC guidance to help prevent asymptomatic people, who may not know they're infected, from spreading the virus to healthy folks," Parham said. "Even when you wear a mask or other face covering, it is still important to practice good hand hygiene, social distancing, and refrain from touching your face."

Along with now requiring face coverings, commissaries also are: 

  • Installing clear acrylic "sneeze shields" in all regular checkout lanes;
  • Wiping down checkout areas, product displays, restrooms and shopping carts with disinfectant;
  • Providing hand sanitizer at each register;
  • Asking employees to closely monitor their health and stay home if they, or someone in their home, are sick;
  • Working with installations to implement social distancing;
  • Establishing a "no visitors" policy to reduce the number of people in stores;
  • Suspending early-bird hours to allow staff more time to clean and restock the store;
  • Banning reusable bags;
  • Customers now scan their own IDs;
  • Asking customers to use credit or debit cards instead of cash;
  • Suspending the requirement to sign credit card receipts.

"We will continue to follow the highest standards of DOD health protection in our stores," Bianchi said. "DeCA's objective is always to deliver the necessary goods our customers need in stores that are safe and clean for them and our employees."

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Reach Abbie Bennett: abbie@connectingvets.com or @AbbieRBennett.

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