Among reports of entire families out shopping at grocery stores and customers congregating in aisles talking with friends, Easton officials are urging local residents to follow precautions against COVID-19, including social distancing.
Councilman Ron Engle said the town had received numerous complaints about shoppers stopping to speak to one another, blocking aisles and making it difficult for others to shop safely.
Easton also has gotten reports of entire families heading to the stores to shop, which violates the spirit of the governor’s executive order allowing Maryland residents to leave home to shop for essential supplies, such as food.
Engle, acting town council president, said Easton does not want to get the police department involved in managing people shopping in stores. A person who is found guilty of violating the governor’s emergency orders may be subject to a year in jail and/or a $5,000 fine.
“We’ve received numerous complaints the past week regarding several businesses allowing large crowds within their establishments in violation of the state’s social distancing order,” Engle said at Monday night’s council meeting.
“In a number of reported instances, groups of people have been observed mingling and talking in groups in the aisles of these establishments,” he said. “This makes it difficult for other shoppers to get past these groups and dramatically increases the degree of exposure to all those involved.
“Gov. Hogan has given local health officials authority to close/modify essential businesses for not following social distance regulations,” Engle said. “We have raised these complaints with the county health department which has this responsibility. We will move on this as quickly as the process lets us.
“Secondly, there is something we can all do regardless of action from the health department,” he said. “I want to raise the issue of the spirit of the executive order that allows certain businesses to remain open during these dire times. It would appear that many are using these open businesses for social connecting as well as shopping for their families.
“One easy and appropriate fix for this is for families to limit the number of family members present for shopping to 1 or 2 people,” Engle said. “People should also employ a high degree of courtesy to their fellow shoppers and citizens.
“They should not congregate in aisles, which violates the social distancing rules, and they should not interfere with other shoppers’ ability to traverse the shopping lanes without increased exposure or inconvenience.
“We would rather not involve our police department in social management. They are currently stretched too thin to respond to complaints of this nature.
“All of the health experts predict an extremely severe couple of weeks ahead,” Engle said. “We need to be practicing as many health practices as social distancing and shelter in place as we can to try to reduce the incidence of this deadly virus.
“This will help protect not only ourselves and our families, but all the citizens of Talbot County and the Town of Easton.”