High customer volume leaves shoppers waiting in line to enter some stores

SHEILA A. MATHEWS :::

High customer volume in Griffin grocery stores Wednesday afternoon resulted in shopping delays for some customers as they were required to wait to enter stores.

Griffin Fire-Rescue Chief John Hamilton said that following Governor Brian Kemp’s Wednesday afternoon address, GF-R personnel drove by local businesses to ensure crowds were with safety needs.

“We’ve been doing this anyway,” Hamilton said. “We drive by places and look at the parking lots to see if there are any places we need to go in and check on spacing.”

Those Wednesday parking lot checks indicated some stores were exceeding safety parameters, which led officials to implement measures to reduce store traffic.

“I drove by Kroger and the parking lot was full. We did Walmart, Food Depot, Aldi, Dollar Generals, we did any store we though might have a crowd,” Hamilton said. “We went to Kroger – and Mr. (Kenny) Smith was with me – and people weren’t spaced six-feet apart. We came up with a plan and that was to stop people from going in until a few people came out. We did that until it was under control.”

Hamilton confirmed that Griffin Fire-Rescue did not require any store to close.

“We didn’t close any store down. We did limit some stores,” he said. “We just wanted to get it under control, so it was safe for everyone, but we didn’t close anyone down. We did limit the number of people going in until it was safe.”

Hamilton said forming lines resolved the issues encountered Wednesday night and helped prepare for the following business day.

“We did that yesterday evening and we were out again today. We had to assist some to help their plans work. They’re doing a good job. We’re just trying to see what works best,” he said. “We need to keep that social distancing. The amount of people in the stores is sometimes irrelevant when there are crowds at the registers. What matters is where people are gathering.”

Asked if Thursday was less chaotic, Hamilton said, “I think so. My opinion is that last night caught everyone off guard. Last night was a little difficult for us, but today has been good. We’ve gone out and spoken with store managers and employees and explained what we’re trying to do. We’ve gotten a lot of good feedback. It’s not just us. It’s our entire administrative staff and the Police Department. They’ve been outstanding. We cannot do it alone.”

The goal is not to unnecessarily restrict businesses or shoppers, but to maintain safety for all, he explained.

“It is difficult. This is new to all of us. We’re trying to keep the employees safe. We’re trying to keep the shoppers safe,” he said. “We want to help everyone get through this healthy so we can get back to our normal lives, we hope.”

A call seeking comment from Griffin Police Department Chief Mike Yates was not returned.

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