Farmers markets, fish markets disqualified as ‘essential’ in DC; store signs must tell shoppers to wear masks

Under a new order from the mayor, farmers and fish markets in D.C. are no longer allowed to operate unless they get a waiver, and retail food sellers must inform customers that they need to wear a mask.

Mayor Muriel Bowser issued the order Wednesday night, and it went into effect at 12:01 a.m. Thursday.

Farmers and fish markets are no longer classified as essential businesses and may only operate if they get a waiver. To get the waiver, the market must submit a plan that outlines how it will operate and enforce social distancing protocols.

The move comes after huge crowds gathered at The Wharf’s popular seafood market last weekend, raising concerns about social distancing and the spread of coronavirus in D.C., an emerging hot spot.

The city had 1,440 COVID-19 cases and 27 deaths, as of Wednesday.

Retail food sellers — grocery stores, supermarkets, food halls, food banks, convenience stores and other businesses that sell food — must implement social distancing protocols for the safety of employees and customers.

This includes posting signs at the entrance instructing customers to wear a mask or a mouth covering.

The stores should also inform customers to maintain social distancing and to avoid going in if they have symptoms of COVID-19.

Bowser’s order also requires stores to limit the number of customers who can enter at a time; to mark paths and make aisles one-way, where possible; to provide hand sanitizers or disinfecting wipes; to make sure that social distancing can be maintained at checkout counters; to ask customers to fill their own bags, if they are able; and to regularly disinfect items and areas that get touched often.

Under the order, self-serve stations, such as hot bars, salad bars and buffets, should be closed; whole produce sections are exempt.

And by April 20, registers that serve 50 customers or more must install glass or plastic barriers between shoppers and employees.

Stores should also check their employees for symptoms before they begin their shifts and not have employees work if they have a cold or flulike symptoms. They must also provide employees with gloves and masks and teach employees how to use them safely.

If a store employee tests positive for COVID-19, the store should have a protocol to clean and sanitize the location.

In addition, the mayor’s new order amends previous orders and removes tennis and golf as allowable recreational activities and clarifies that community gardens are open to the public.

Read the mayor’s new order here.

On Wednesday, a Trader Joe’s grocery store in D.C.’s U Street corridor is temporarily closed after an employee tested positive for COVID-19.

Two Montgomery County, Maryland, council members proposed a measure Tuesday that would require employees and customers of essential businesses to wear face coverings when interacting with customers and co-workers.

Last week, a union representing grocery store workers in the D.C. region called for them to be classified as first responders, saying that grocery store employees are working “on the front lines” and are at risk for exposure to COVID-19.


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