3 To Know: No samples at Costco, more

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1. Costco pauses free samples over COVID-19

Costco is suspending free samples over safety concerns with the spread of the coronavirus.

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It was not immediately known if Costco has pulled samples from all stores in the U.S. or only in select areas or when the suspension would end.

Club Demonstration Services, which provides in-store marketing events for Costco, declined to comment late Friday and referred calls to Costco. Costco did not respond to USA TODAY’s request for comment.

Costco stores in California, Washington state and Florida said they did not know when Costco would begin offering free food samples again.

The news that product demonstrations would be suspended first surfaced on Reddit on Thursday.

On social media, consumers mourned the loss of the smorgasbord of free snacks. Costco free samples are a legendary draw at the warehouse clubs, whether you’re casually grazing or going for a whole meal.

Shoppers can sample a meatball here, a few pretzels there, while piling toilet paper and bottled water into an oversized cart.

Costco said last week it’s struggling to keep bottled water, disinfectants and other critical supplies in stock as shoppers stock up while preparing to hunker down. Some Costco locations have limited how much toilet paper or paper towels they can purchase. “We’re getting deliveries daily, but still not enough given the increased levels in demand on certain key items,” Chief Financial Officer Richard Galanti said in an earnings call with investors Thursday.

2. Not stopping for school buses could be more costly

Penalties for passing a school bus picking up and dropping off children would double under a bill sent to Gov. Ron DeSantis on Friday.

Bus with sign extended.

The Senate unanimously passed the bill that would increase the penalty for passing a school bus displaying a stop sign from $100 to $200. A second offense within five years could result in a fine and a driver license suspension between 180 days and one year.

Passing a stopped bus on the side where children enter and exit would rise from $200 to $400 for a first offense. A second offense within five years would result in the fine plus a license suspension between 360 days and two years.

In 2019, the Department of Education surveyed school bus drivers about illegal passing of their buses. The survey of 10,136 drivers showed that on a single day, there were 12,749 illegal passes.

3. Spring arrives early for many parts of US

Spring has sprung. After a mild winter, flowers are blooming and trees are leafing out earlier than ever recorded across portions of the U.S., scientists say.

“Phenologists – who study seasonal phenomena in the natural world – calculate the start of spring based on observations of ‘leaf-outs’ (the appearance of tiny leaves on trees), blooms for species active in early spring (such as lilac and honeysuckle) and weather events and temperature conditions,” the Guardian reported.

two bumblebees on a yellow flower collects pollen

In parts of the Southeast, this year’s spring is the earliest in the 39 years records have been kept, according to the USA National Phenology Network.

“Spring leaf-out continues ... three weeks earlier than the long-term average in some locations,” the network said.

Locations such as Washington, D.C., and New York City are 24 days early; Philadelphia is 16 days early and Little Rock, Arkansas, is nine days early.

The early spring is due in part to the unusually warm winter: The U.S. winter (December-February) was the sixth warmest on record, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced Friday. NOAA’s records go back to 1895.