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State orders big-box stores to only sell essentials

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MONTPELIER — In a further move to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus, the state has directed "big-box" retailers such as Walmart, Target and Costco to stop selling non-essential items, to reduce the number of shoppers coming into their stores.

The order, issued late Tuesday by the Agency of Commerce and Community Development, includes, but is not limited to, arts and crafts, beauty, carpet and flooring, clothing, consumer electronics, entertainment (books, music, movies), furniture, home and garden, jewelry, paint, photo services, sports equipment and toys.

These stores may continue selling essential items such as food, medications, animal feed, fuel products, hardware and other items listed in Gov. Phil Scott's executive order of March 24 restricting retail sales.

"Large `big box' retailers generate significant shopping traffic by virtue of their size and the variety of goods offered in a single location," Lindsay Kurrle, secretary of the Agency of Commerce and Community Development, said in a statement.

"This volume of shopping traffic significantly increases the risk of further spread of this dangerous virus to Vermonters and the viability of Vermont's health care system. We are directing these stores to put public health first and help us reduce the number of shoppers by requiring online ordering, delivery and curbside pickup whenever possible, and by stopping the sale of non-essential items," Kurrle said.

As of Tuesday afternoon, 293 people in Vermont had tested positive for the coronavirus, and 13 had died, according to the Vermont Department of Health.

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Scott's March 24 order allows in-person business operations to continue at retail businesses for the following:

- Retail serving basic human needs such as grocery stores, pharmacies, other retail that sells food, beverage, animal feed and essential supplies, provided, these retail operations shall be conducted through on-line and telephone orders for delivery and curb-side pickup to the extent possible

- Fuel products and supply

- Hardware stores, provided, these retail operations shall be conducted through online and telephone orders for delivery and curb-side pickup to the extent possible

- Transportation sector and agricultural sector equipment parts, repair and maintenance, provided these retail operations shall be conducted through on-line and telephone orders for delivery and curb-side pickup to the extent possible

Large retailers have been directed to restrict access to non-essential goods by closing aisles or portions of the store, or removing items from the sales floor. Retailers can still sell non-essential merchandise ordered online or by telephone, and delivered to the customer's home or picked up at the curb.

Except in the event of emergencies threatening the health and welfare of a customer, the agency said, showrooms and garden sections of large home improvement centers should be closed.


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