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Vermont orders Walmart, Target to stop selling non-essential items in the store

The order applies to "big box" stores in the state as a way to increase social distancing between customers during the coronavirus crisis.

State officials in Vermont are ordering large retailers that sell critical items such as food and prescription drugs to stop the in-person sale of nonessential products such as clothing and electronics.

The directive, announced Tuesday by Vermont's Agency of Commerce and Community Development, was addressed at "big box" retailers.

Whenever possible, stores such as Walmart, Target and Costco must stop the sale of nonessential items within the store and require online or telephone ordering, delivery, and curbside pickup instead.

Big box retailers generate significant shopping traffic by virtue of their size and the variety of goods offered.

“This volume of shopping traffic significantly increases the risk of further spread of this dangerous virus to Vermonters and the viability of Vermont’s health care system. We are directing these stores to put public health first and help us reduce the number of shoppers by requiring on-line ordering, delivery and curbside pickup whenever possible, and by stopping the sale of non-essential items," Agency of Commerce and Community Development Secretary Lindsay Kurrle said in a statement.

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The items that cannot be sold in person include, but are not limited to, arts and crafts, beauty supplies, carpet and flooring, clothing, consumer electronics, entertainment, furniture, home and garden, jewelry, paint, photo services, sports equipment and toys.

Stores are ordered to close aisles, close portions of the store or remove items from the shelves.

The agency also said showrooms and garden sections of large home improvement centers should be closed unless there is a life-threatening emergency.

RELATED: Home Depot to limit number of customers allowed in at one time

Other retailers including grocery stores and hardware stores are allowed to remain open as part of Vermont's "Stay home, stay safe" order, but they are encouraged to use online or curbside pickup when possible, according to the agency.

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