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For Single Parents, Shopping During Coronavirus Comes With Extra Hurdles

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While few would argue the ongoing public health crisis has left their life unchanged, there are some groups who've found essential tasks more impacted than others. For example, for single parents, grocery shopping during the coronavirus pandemic comes with additional hurdles due to social distancing guidelines.

In Texas, a single mother of two recently went viral after she claimed that she'd been prevented from entering a Costco earlier this month because her children were with her. In early April, Costco announced that, in an effort to help shoppers and employees maintain social distancing, the company was temporarily amending its store policy to allow only two shoppers to enter its warehouse locations per each membership. "This change is for your safety and the safety of our employees and other members, and to further assist with our social distancing efforts," Costco says on its website.

In a video uploaded to Facebook, Ari ElToro can be seen attempting to explain her predicament to a Costco store manager. "I don't have anybody to watch my kids," ElToro said. "I can't hire a babysitter because social distancing. I can't have somebody come into my house because of social distancing. Like, I literally can't do anything."

While the Costco manager refused to bend the store policy and allow the group of three inside, they did offer to have an employee gather any desired items for her. "This is ridiculous that I, as a single mom, am not able to go grocery shopping, nor am I able to get a babysitter," ElToro said after refusing the offer due to the store's continually changing produce selection.

When asked about the incident and whether the company would consider exceptions for single parents, a spokesperson for Costco directed Romper to its shopper policy and said warehouses could make accommodations "when it makes sense to do so."

While some other grocery retailers have instituted a similar one-shopper-per-household policy, many have made exceptions for single parents. In the Midwest, for instance, the supermarket chain Schnucks has explicitly noted that single parents unable to obtain child care are exempt from its new ban on group shopping.

"While it is our hope that customers will understand and abide by this policy, we also recognize that there are situations where it is simply not possible — be it a single parent who has no childcare options, an elderly customer who needs assistance from a friend or relative, or a customer with other needs," a memo from Schnucks corporate read, as WIFR reported. "Our store teams are being asked to exercise judgment in these situations, in order to ensure that all of our customers are able to complete their shopping trip."

Similarly, an executive order announced April 8 by Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear, which limited in-store shopping trips to one person per household, excluded households with individuals who can't remain at home unsupervised. "So if you're the adult in the household and you need to go out and get groceries but you have minor children or other adults who have physical or mental impairments and they can't be on their own, they can still accompany you to the grocery store," LaTasha Bucker, the governor's chief of staff, said, according to WKMS.

But ElToro isn't the only single parent to report having been prevented from procuring groceries because they're unable to leave their child at home. In early April two single mothers in Connecticut told Fox61 they were turned away separately from a Walmart in Newington because they had children accompanying them. One mother told the news outlet, the store had threatened to call the police on her after she expressed frustration at the store's policy.

Walmart told Fox61 that while the company was suggesting stores limit capacity to five shoppers per 1,000 square feet, it did not have a rule mandating shoppers come alone. Indeed, its updated store policy encourages customers to "bring the fewest number of people per family necessary to shop" but does not state that only one person per household can enter the store.

Meanwhile, unable to secure child care, MaryAnn Fausey Renendez resorted to making her 5-year-old daughter a sign that alerted their fellow shoppers to the family's circumstances. "I am only 5," the sign, which Fausey Renendez shared in a viral Facebook post, read. "I can't stay home alone so I have to buy groceries with mommy."

Fausey Renendez explained that she'd made the sign because she knew someone would "take a picture" of her shopping with her daughter "and talk sh*t on social media, not knowing all the facts."

While social distancing guidelines that limit households to just one shopper are likely implemented with the best of intentions, they're next to impossible for single parents to abide by without available child care. And with soaring demand for grocery delivery and extensive wait times for pick-ups, some alternative options simply aren't an option.

If you think you’re showing symptoms of coronavirus, which include fever, shortness of breath, and cough, call your doctor before going to get tested. If you’re anxious about the virus’s spread in your community, visit the CDC for up-to-date information and resources, or seek out mental health support. You can find all of Romper’s parents + coronavirus coverage here, and Bustle’s constantly updated, general “what to know about coronavirus” here.