Coronavirus is coming for your Pike Place Blend. Well, at least that’s what Starbucks is worried about, anyway. Like many companies, this week the Seattle-based coffee giant posted an open letter detailing the precautionary measures it’s taking to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. The letter states the coffee chain is temporarily declining to refill customers’ personal refillable mugs in its roughly 17,000 North American locations.
Given the rapidity with which coronavirus is spreading, researchers are still learning about how it’s transmitted. According to the CDC, the virus is spread from person-to-person contact, and/or through “respiratory droplets” when an infected person coughs or sneezes. In Seattle (and other places), it’s been confirmed that COVID-19 has been transmitted via “community spread,” meaning people are getting it without knowingly interacting with anyone who has the virus or has recently traveled internationally. Does that mean, theoretically, an infected person could bring an infected mug to Starbucks, and that mug could infect baristas, who could infect additional customers? I’m no scientist, but that seems to be the worst-case scenario Starbucks HQ wants to prevent.
The letter, signed by executive vice president Rossann Williams, did not indicate how long this adjustment would last, but says they’re “optimistic this will be a temporary situation.” Don’t leave your reusable mugs at home, though! You’ll still get that sweet, sweet 10-cent discount when you show up with your personal tumblers, even though your barista won’t touch it.