The Army & Air Force Exchange Service is moving to cut back on cash purchases to help reduce the spread of COVID-19.
Instead, Exchanges are requesting customers complete purchases with credit or debit cards, gift cards, or a MILITARY STAR card, according to the Army & Air Force Exchange Service.
“Paper money and coins can harbor bacteria and viruses long after they change hands,” Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Luis Reyes, the Exchange senior enlisted advisor, said in a news release Wednesday. “While we understand this may cause some inconvenience for customers who primarily pay with cash, we thought it best to put the health and safety of our military communities first and ask for their help in the fight to contain this virus.”
The World Health Organization has recommended washing hands after handling cash to prevent the spread of germs, bacteria, and viruses, but pushed back on media reports earlier this month suggesting that COVID-19 was circulating through cash payments, according to Market Watch.
To further promote social distancing, the Exchange Service is also encouraging customers to purchase items online, and then pick them up at the store. Customers can purchase their items at ShopMyExchange.com, and select the “Pick Up in Store” option for delivery.
The service only applies to authorized military shoppers with installation access.
In order to keep exchanges running and stocked, the COVID-19 Exchange Disaster Support Group launched in February and has since identified new suppliers to purchase products from during the pandemic.
“Whatever we can do to get needed product to our shoppers, the Exchange is doing,” Reyes said. “The DSG’s focus is keeping the global pipeline moving so that no matter where our Soldiers, Airmen, families and associates may be, they’re getting what they need.”
Hours at exchanges may be modified though, according to Army & Air Force Exchange Service spokesperson Marisa Conner. Ultimately, installations will vary in hours or limitations.
“The Exchange is fully nested with installation commanders and adjusting operations based on local leadership requests,” Conner said. “Authorized shoppers can check their local Exchange’s social media pages for information on changes to hours, temporary closures and/or access limitations.”
“Unless directed by the Services or installation command, Exchange stores remain open to serve those who serve us,” Conner said.
Although the Pentagon has upped all health protection measures at installations to HPCON Charlie on Wednesday, exchanges will still provide food and retail services at this time. HPCON Charlie means the assessed risk is substantial.
While the Navy Exchange Command moved to close all Navy Exchange barbershops and beauty salons due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Army & Air Force Exchange Service has yet to adopt a universal policy on the matter. However, some non-essential services including barber shops and salons could be closed as well, Conner said.
“Some Exchange barber shops, salons, nail salons and spas have closed at the direction of installation command,” Conner said. “For those locations that remain open, Exchange barbers are increasing their focus on sanitation, including staying home if sick, frequent hand washing and routinely cleaning door knobs, faucet handles, etc.”