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Some stores, including New Pioneer Food Co-Op, now requiring customers to wear masks while shopping

Jan Axtell shops with a face mask on at New Pioneer Food Co-Op in Cedar Rapids on Monday, May...
Jan Axtell shops with a face mask on at New Pioneer Food Co-Op in Cedar Rapids on Monday, May 4, 2020. (Randy Dircks/KCRG)(KCRG)
Published: May. 4, 2020 at 6:32 PM CDT
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For the last month, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recommended people wear face masks in public, and now some stores across eastern Iowa are now requiring shoppers to wear those masks.

New Pioneer Food Co-Op is one of those places asking people to wear a mask at all times at all its locations. The staff said that while shoppers might be exposed to 30-40 people while they shop, workers could be exposed to hundreds throughout their shifts. The policy is all in an effort to keep everyone less exposed

Some shoppers say they are already in support of the idea. Take Jan Axtell, for example: she spent Monday morning with a list.

"Eggs, sausage, milk, olive oil, and a potato," Axtell said, searching for no more than five minutes through a store she has shopped in for years.

As Axtell traveled the aisles of the store, she followed a new required theme.

"We are asking everybody to wear a mask while they're in the store," Jesse Koolbeck, the store team lead for the location in Cedar Rapids, said. "It's a requirement of employees and we just started asking shoppers to also wear masks while they're in the store as well."

Axtell, who said she has consistently worn a mask shopping for the last few weeks, said she is on board with the idea.

"If we want to get out of our houses, ever, I feel like we need to do this," Axtell said. "It's what they're telling us to do."

Koolbeck, who has worked for the grocer for more than 10 years, has never had to wear a mask at work before the novel coronavirus pandemic. He said despite his lack-of-experience wearing a mask, it is something he completely supports.

"In grocery stores, it's sometimes hard to maintain your social distance," Koolbeck said. "And so we felt like asking this of our employees and our customers is just an added layer of protection."

For shoppers like Axtell, they said protection is pivotal when patrolling the store.

"It makes me feel safer," Axtell said. "And hopefully they feel safer, if you do pass in the aisle you kind of try to keep your space. But otherwise, you just feel safer."

Menards and Costco also requiring customers to follow the same policy: if you want to get in, you'll need your mask first. Other businesses are recommending face masks, but they are not required to shop.