It's hard to look anywhere without seeing news about the impact of the coronavirus and the disease COVID-19 — and it's beginning to affect our lives in more ways than just an uptick in hand sanitizing and paranoia. Businesses are starting to take major precautions to keep their customers safe in response to the outbreak, and in an effort to limit the risks of spreading the virus, Starbucks is temporarily banning personal cups and "for-here" dishes, according to an announcement from the company. So for however deeply attached you are to your reuasable mug, you'll have to leave it at home for the time being when it comes to getting your Starbucks fix.
"We’ve already taken a series of precautionary steps in response to this emerging public health impact... [and] are pausing the use of personal cups and 'for here' ware in our stores," wrote Rossann Williams, Starbucks' president of U.S. company-operated business and Canada in a statement published on March 4 regarding what the company is doing to help keep customers calm during the outbreak the company's management of the dynamics of COVID-19.
While the statement did not specifically mention why the temporary ban on personal and reusable wares is being taken as a precautionary step, we can assume it comes down to a matter of cleanliness. Using only disposable cups for drinks and single-use to-go packaging for food is more sanitary than having employees handle and sanitize personal cups and reusable dishware that could potentially be contaminated with the virus.
The letter notes that despite the moratorium on using personal cups and "for-here" dining ware, Starbucks stores will continue to honor the 10-cent discount that's offered to customers — so while you'll have to take your drinks and food in disposable cups regardless of your preference, you'll still be rewarded with Starbucks' nominal discount for just bringing in your Yeti.
Temporarily cutting the use of personal cups is just one of several precautionary actions being taken by the company in response to COVID-19 concerns. According to Starbucks, the company's stores are upping their cleaning and sanitizing practices, training their store's team members on how to handle issues pertaining to the virus and potential store closures, and limiting or modifying things like business-related flights or large in-person meetings. The company continues to offer sick leave to all of its employees, accruing at a rate of one hour for every 30 hours worked, according to Eater.
This news also comes after Starbucks closed more than 2,000 of its stores in China (that's more than half of the cafes being operated by the company in the whole country's mainland, according to NPR) in late January, amidst the initial coronavirus outbreak. Since then, many Starbucks stores in China have re-opened, with more than 85% of the stores reportedly back in operation as of Feb. 27, as reported by CNBC.
Your Starbucks-fueled morning routines might look a bit different in the midst of this potential crisis. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has warned that the United States should be preparing for a coronavirus outbreak, noting that the disruptions to our everyday life could be severe in nature. According to Yahoo! News, approximately 3,200 people have died as a result of the coronavirus thus far, and it has infected 95,000 worldwide. Starbucks isn't the only company making preparatory changes — some airlines have cut flights to high-risk countries, and some schools have temporarily closed, too.
While having to take your vanilla latte in a disposable cup instead of your trusty reusable mug may be annoying if you're committed to reducing your single-use trash, it's a small price to pay when it comes to public safety.
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 spread of the virus in your community, visit the CDC for up-to-date information and resources, or seek out mental health support. You can find all of Bustle’s coverage of coronavirus here.