Multiple Costco employees around the country confirmed to PEOPLE that the programs have been paused indefinitely
Costco Reports Q3 Profits Up 12.3 Percent

Over the last few weeks, multiple large food companies and restaurant chains like Starbucks and Coca-Cola have implemented precautionary measures amid increasing coronavirus concerns — and now Costco is joining in and temporarily suspending the distribution of free samples in stores.

A representative for the company could not immediately be reached for comment, but Costco employees at warehouses around the country confirmed to PEOPLE that their free sample programs have been paused indefinitely.

After the news first started spreading on Reddit, people on Twitter expressed their disappointment. One user wrote, “Costco samples have been suspended until further notice. Where am I supposed to get free lunch now?” Another person joked, “My mom said Costco is temporarily suspending free samples due to corona and I swear I’ve never seen my dad jump up off the couch so fast.”

Prior to the decision, the superstore’s legendary free sample program was known for its “annoyingly strict hygiene policies,” according to a Reddit user who claimed to be a sample worker. They said, “All the equipment is sanitized before we use it, we change our gloves every five minutes, and any time a member touches something they [aren’t] supposed to, we throw it away or change it for something clean.”

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COVID-19 began in Wuhan, China in late December and has since spread across the globe. As of Monday, there have been 788 confirmed cases of coronavirus in the U.S. and 28 deaths. The number of cases went up quickly over the last few days, with the majority occurring in Washington state, California and New York, PEOPLE reported.

While the virus has proven deadly, it is especially dangerous for people over the age of 60, Nancy Messonnier, director of the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, said this week. Most people exposed to the virus may only experience mild symptoms.

The CDC says that the best prevention methods are basic forms of hygiene — careful hand washing, avoiding touching the face, moving away from people who are coughing or sneezing, and staying home at signs of illness.