Coronavirus prompts Vermont to order Costco, Target to stop sale of ‘nonessential’ items

Walmart was also ordered to pivot certain items to online sales

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The state of Vermont wants less foot traffic in big-box stores.

In a bid to slow the spread of coronavirus in the state, officials there are ordering large retailers, including Costco, Target and Walmart, to stop the in-person sale of nonessential items like beauty supplies, clothing and sports equipment and to pivot to online or phone sales. The directive comes from the Agency of Commerce and Community Development.

“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, the state's Agency of Commerce and Community Development secretary, said in a statement.

TickerSecurityLastChangeChange %
COSTCOSTCO WHOLESALE CORPORATION309.56+3.55+1.16%
TGTTARGET CORP.118.43+1.02+0.87%
WMTWALMART INC.123.69+1.21+0.99%

“This volume of shopping traffic significantly increases the risk of further spread 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 on-line ordering, delivery and curbside pickup, and by stopping the sale of non-essential items.”

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The stores have been asked to close off certain sections and remove items from shelves. Customers, however, can still walk in for essential goods like food and prescription drugs.

Health officials at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have urged social-distancing measures for at least eight weeks, calling for U.S. residents to stay home and away from others as much as possible in order to slow further spread of COVID-19.

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The state’s website is asking people to “leave for essentials only,” and a March 30 order from Gov. Phil Scott said both residents and non-residents coming from outside the state “for anything other than an essential purpose” should quarantine for 14 days.

Of the 237,000 nationwide COVID-19 cases, roughly 340 are in Vermont.

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