Humason says ‘stay home’ as Walmart shuts down non-essential aisles

Aisles with non-essential items are taped off April 1, 2020 at Westfield Walmart. (ANDREW MARTIN PHOTO)

WESTFIELD – Mayor Donald F. Humason Jr. was not mincing his words April 1 when he told people to stay home on the same day that Westfield’s Walmart closed off aisles containing non-essential items.

Humason, often described as “a nice guy,” took on a harsher tone during a telephone conference Wednesday.

“Wash your hands, stay away from other people,” Humason said. “As the weather improves, people are considering this as some sort of vacation – it’s not.”

Humason said that every one of the city’s positive COVID-19 cases is not just a “case.”

A sign alerting Westfield Walmart customers of the closing of non-essential aisles is affixed to caution tape April 1, 2020. (ANDREW MARTIN/THE WESTFIELD NEWS)

“Every case is a person, every person is a family and every family is a group,” Humason said. “I’m asking again, in the firmest terms possible, for people to stay home. Stay away from other people.”

Humason apologized for being “gruff” and said people must practice “extreme” social distancing.

Humason said he and city leaders are “planning for the long haul” and thanked those leaders for their efforts.

“These are the warriors on the front lines in Westfield,” he said, referring to many of those on the conference call, which included representatives from city health safety departments as well as schools, the Senior Center, Chamber of Commerce and more.

Humason said to discourage people from continuing to gather, Walmart in Westfield was following the practice of the Chicopee Walmart. Store staff taped off sections of the store Wednesday. One shopper, Andrew Martin, said he went to buy fishing bait and sneakers for his daughter, but couldn’t.

“Everything but gardening, health and beauty, pharmacy, automotive, home improvement, pets, food and toiletries was closed,” Martin said. “There was a woman with two small children that told me she needed a small thing of bubbles because they had a family member in the hospital and that’s all they would allow but couldn’t get it because it was in one of the ‘non-essential’ areas. Now her kids will be even more bored there. Still no toilet paper, and 6-foot markers are everywhere with instructions to keep your distance.”

Martin said shoppers were surprised and many were upset.

“Some people were fine, but a lot of them were aggravated,” he said.

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