Target has made the decision to suspend in-store returns across the country in an effort to protect employees and customers alike as the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) continues to spread.
The mega retailer announced the decision in a post to their website on Wednesday, sharing that the company will be implementing a variety of changes to keep communities safe in the face of the global pandemic.
One of these changes is that returns and exchanges will no longer be accepted in Target stores, in an effort to reduce face-to-face interaction and the potential spread of the virus via materials.
A recent study found that COVID-19 can last for up to three hours in aerosols (liquid droplets in the air, from coughs or sneezes), four hours on copper, 24 hours on cardboard, and two to three days on plastic and stainless steel.
“To be extra cautious, Target will stop accepting in-store product returns and exchanges for the next three weeks,” CEO Brian Cornell said in the statement. “But don’t worry if you have a return that expires during that period, because we’ll still honor them three weeks past the holding period.”
Three weeks from the day the statement was posted is April 15, 2020, though this period could be extended depending on advice from health and government officials.
In addition to suspending returns, Target is also halting development on a number of company projects, including new store openings, store remodelings, new products and more.
In stores, employees are now being asked to refrain from handling customers’ reusable bags, offering paper or plastic ones instead and waiving any local fees. Customers can still use eco-friendly reusable bags if they prefer, but will be asked to pack the bags themselves.
Checkout lanes are also now being cleaned after each transaction, and will be rotated often so that deep cleanings can be done on those not in use. A designated employee will be guiding guests through checkpoints to make sure this goes smoothly, and another employee will be at the door handling and sanitizing carts.
Target stores will also be extending shopping hours for those who are most at-risk for coronavirus, including the elderly and those with compromised immune systems.
“Starting next week, we’ll reserve the first hour our stores are open on Tuesdays and Wednesdays to accommodate those shoppers,” the statement reads. “Our partners at CVS will have their pharmacy locations open during that time as well.”
As of Monday, there are at least 144,732 confirmed cases of coronavirus in the U.S. — the most worldwide — with at least 2,527 people having died from coronavirus-related illness.
As information about the coronavirus pandemic rapidly changes, PEOPLE is committed to providing the most recent data in our coverage. Some of the information in this story may have changed after publication. For the latest on COVID-19, readers are encouraged to use online resources from CDC, WHO, and local public health departments. To help provide doctors and nurses on the front lines with life-saving medical resources, donate to Direct Relief here.
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