Is it time to limit number of people in grocery stores?

Supermarket interior, empty red shopping cart.

Gov. Phil Murphy has closed all non-essential businesses and banned all public gatherings. He and seemingly every other state official to speak at the daily coronavirus briefings has stressed the need for social distancing.

None of that seems to matter when it comes to grocery stores.

Murphy, during his daily coronavirus briefing Sunday, reiterated the need for grocery stores to stay open. But, when given a chance to set limits, he passed. He only encouraged residents to practice social distancing.

Anyone who has been in a store in the past week knows that’s not going on.

“Use your common sense,” Murphy said. “If somebody’s getting in your space, let them know or move out of their way.

“You can do it peacefully — just make sure you’re doing your social distancing.”

Limiting the number of people in a store at any one time would be incredibly inconvenient, economically devastating to the stores — and perhaps even fail in the objective. What would prevent folks from gathering outside?

Some stores have begun doing so. Stores in Teaneck, in fact, were ordered to do so last week.

And, while we applauded when stores decided to open early for seniors — a great way to protect the most vulnerable population in these confined spaces — we recognize it may be time to do that for everyone.

This wouldn’t be easy. Limiting stores to 25 or 50 customers (depending on their size) would be tough. Five go out, five go in.

We get it. That would stink. And it would make food gathering a longer part of your day or week.

But what do you think folks in Italy would say about this type of plan?

The good news: We are the warehouse state. Aside from toilet paper, stores are restocking at a rate that there’s no need to panic and rush to them.

But, the fact remains, at any given time, there are too many people too close together when shopping for food.

And if that’s the only way the virus spreads, it may be time to do something about that.

“We’re doing everything we can to remind folks it’s no time to panic, it’s time to be smart and to be sensible about what we do,” Murphy said.

We hate to say it, but limiting folks in food stores might follow along those lines.

Read more from ROI-NJ on coronavirus: