Cameras capture crowds inside businesses despite social distancing guidelines

Essential businesses in Jacksonville say they’re working to prevent the spread of COVID-19

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Cameras captured people who were not distancing themselves inside businesses deemed essential to stay open amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Video from inside a small Lakewood grocery store and restaurant shows a large number of people who were very close to each other as they waited in line for checkout.

The owners did not want to comment on camera, but they said they’re doing their best to prevent the spread of COVID-19. There is plexiglass separating cashiers from customers and employees are working to keep the grocery carts sanitized. The owners said they even put up a sign telling customers to stay behind the yellow line at the checkout and to be an arm’s length away from each other.

News4Jax also went into a laundromat around the corner where a headcount revealed more than 55 people, many of whom were very close to each other, inside at one time.

News4Jax crime and safety expert Ken Jefferson said this is unacceptable.

“If they see every day the numbers of deaths that are growing because of the coronavirus, and they’re ignoring all the recommendations and rules being set forth, that angers me because it doesn’t make any sense," Jefferson said.

The owner of the laundromat didn’t want to talk on camera because she said she was confused by what’s acceptable per the mayor and governor. But Coin Laundry Association CEO Bryan Wallace released a video explaining his recommendations to keep laundromats on the essential list.

“Taking efforts to avoid overcrowding in your store and try to maintain the social distancing and the guidelines around groups of ten or more people gathering inside your store any given time," Wallace said.

In response to what News4Jax found inside the laundromat, the owner removed tables and separated chairs. She said she and her husband were putting up signs to warn people about the changes, and she is also going to encourage customers to either drop off their clothes to be washed by her and her staff or have customers load the machines and then go back outside to their cars while they wait for the clothes to be washed and dried.

“You can still employ certain rules. For instance, you can only allow 10 people in there at one time if they want to do their laundry, wash dry and fold, whatever. You just have to lay down the restriction," Jefferson said.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the virus is thought to spread mainly from person-to-person -- between people who are in close contact with one another (within about 6 feet) and through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes.

Allison Harden told News4Jax she and her husband were buying at a TV at a Walmart when she became concerned as she got closer to the checkout lanes.

“I see people not doing what we’ve been asked to do. Common sense -- stay a distance away from people,” she said. “I’m staying way back over here, waiting for people to get out of my way.”

For the most part, News4Jax found many businesses and customers are taking steps to comply with the recommendations and executive orders that were put in place by both the mayor and the governor.

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