Rhode Island has become the first state to provide social-distancing guidelines for all retailers, including grocery stores, during the coronavirus pandemic.

The state now requires that retailers do not allow more than 20% of the stated fire capacity inside a store at any one time. This means that only one person per 150 square feet will be allowed in a retailer at one time.

In addition, store employees must count the number of customers entering and exiting the store, enforcing capacity limits in accordance with the state guideline.

Retailers must also have clearly marked six-foot spacing in lanes and other high-traffic areas to encourage social distancing at all times. If there is a line outside the store, social distancing of six feet must also be observed using ropes or signage to limit bottlenecks.

Employees are required to enforce social distancing by helping customers stay six feet apart when shopping and maximize space between customers during checkout.

Rhode Island has also issued guidelines that discontinue self-service foods and product sampling as well as requiring dedicated hours for high-risk populations such as seniors, which then must be limited to 10% of the fire capacity or 300 feet per person per store.

grocerystore Breakfast cereal aisle at a Ralph's grocery store in Del Mar, Calif. in March 2013. Photo: Reuters/Mike Blake