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Going on a grocery run? Wash your reusable bags, please, grocers ask

Store manager Steve Knutson unloads a pallet of groceries Thursday at the Super One grocery store in Two Harbors. He was preparing the aisle for a stocking crew to refill the shelves. (Clint Austin /

Minnesota grocers are asking customers with reusable bags to wash them before making a trip to the store as a way to reduce the chance of bringing coronavirus with them.

The request came last week from the Minnesota Grocers Association as grocery stores around the nation are finding themselves in the position of being one of the few public businesses likely to see a continued flow of customers. They might be good for business, but it also leaves everyone in the stores — customers and employees — potentially at risk for contracting COVID-19.

“According to the CDC, current evidence suggests that novel coronavirus may remain viable for hours to days on surfaces made from a variety of materials,” the group said in a statement. “The very popular reusable bag could be a carrier. Reusable bags are machine washable. Cleaning followed by disinfecting is a best practice measure for the prevention of spreading COVID-19 and other viral respiratory illnesses.”

Additionally, the group said: “If one of our team members request you to bag your own items, please help us out. This request would be made in the best interest of everyone’s health and safety.”

The statement also emphasized that customers should maintain social distancing in stores, maintaining 6 feet apart, even though, grocers acknowledge, that can feel odd in checkout lines.

Grocery stores are taking various measures to adapt to to the outbreak, including reserving early hours for more-vulnerable customers, giving employees raises and erecting barriers at checkout lines. At least one, Hy-Vee, has banned the use of reusable bags all together.

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