Hardware stores avoid shutdown, comply with social distancing

Posted at 7:47 PM, Mar 31, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-31 20:01:17-04

Editor’s note: With our coronavirus coverage, our goal is not to alarm you but to equip you with the information you need. We will try to keep things in context and focus on helping you make decisions. See a list of resources and frequently asked questions at the end of this story.

At Ace Hardware in Newport, X marks the spot where manager Brad Baker needs customers 6 feet apart.

"Yeah, there could be issues,” Baker said. “But we have to be here to help them as much as possible and we're going to do that."

State and local leaders have put hardware stores on notice again: Do not allow crowding and violate social distancing. Or else.

Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear threatened Sunday to "shut places down" and Hamilton County's interim health commissioner said Monday that if customers even feel crowded they should go home.

That got the attention of big chains and small stores on both sides of the river.

Beshear and Home Depot execs talked on the phone and those stores now have social distance captains. Hardware stores big and small have signs visible throughout.

Tina Murphy, a Home Depot customer, said parking lots were packed there last weekend.

“There was no way there were only a hundred people in this store,” Murphy said.

In Ohio, authorities see people bending rules but say all 45 Hamilton County police agencies deliver regular warnings and have little trouble getting businesses to obey.

"If you show up and you are going to the hardware store today and you walk in and it's crowded and you're feeling like it's crowded, it's really time to go home," said interim Health Commissioner Greg Kesterman.

Baker's store allows just 10 customers in at a time, and signs on every aisle remind them to stay 6 feet apart. Curbside orders are up too.

For Baker, on the job just two months with an 11-year-old daughter counting on him, closure is the last thing he wants.

"Making sure that everyone stays healthy, that's what matters,” Baker said, “so whatever we have to do to make sure that they're being healthy and they're staying their distance, not getting more people sick or anything, it's what we're going to have to do."

One Home Depot employee told me she is too concerned about crowds to come back. A Home Depot spokesperson said all employees are getting extra paid time off to use for any reason, and those over 65 will get even more.

Find more coronavirus/COVID-19 hotlines and resources below:


  • Department of Health COVID-19 hotline: 833-4-ASK-ODH
  • See ODH’s COVID-19 resources here.


  • State COVID-19 hotline: 1-800-722-5725
  • See the Cabinet for Health and Family Services coronavirus resource site here.


  • SDH Epidemiology Resource Center: (317) 233-7125 or (317) 233-1325 after hours, or e-mail
  • See more information for coronavirus in Indiana here.

What is coronavirus, COVID-19?

According to the World Health Organization, coronaviruses are "a large family of viruses that cause illness ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV).

A novel coronavirus, such as COVID-19, is a new strain that has not been previously identified in humans.

COVID-19 was first identified in December 2019 in Wuhan City, Hubei Province, China and has now been detected in 37 locations across the globe, including in the U.S., according to the CDC.

The CDC reports the initial patients in China have some link to a large seafood and live animal market, indicative of animal-to-person spread. A growing number of patients, however, did not report exposure to animal markets, indicating the disease is spreading person-to-person.

What are the symptoms? How does it spread?

Confirmed cases of COVID-19 have ranged from mild symptoms to severe illness and death, according to the CDC. Symptoms can include fever, cough, shortness of breath.

The CDC said symptoms could appear in as few as two days or as long as 14 days after exposure. It is similar to the incubation period for MERS.

Spread of the virus is thought to be mainly from person-to-person. Spread is between people who are in close contact with one another (within about six feet). Spread occurs via respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes. The droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs.

According to the CDC, it could be possible for a person to get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose or possibly their eyes. This is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads, the CDC said.

The disease is most contagious when people are the sickest and showing the most symptoms.