Many cities and even states have taken drastic measures to keep people apart to slow the spread of coronavirus. That has not included closing retailers since consumers -- even ones forced into practicing social distancing -- still have to eat and buy essentials such as toilet paper and medicine.

Some retailers including Costco (COST 1.68%), Target (TGT 0.57%), and Amazon's (AMZN -0.17%) Whole Foods have adopted policies and guidelines designed to keep the shoppers in their stores as safe as possible. These measures include having early hours just for seniors and at-risk populations as well as asking people to not bunch up while waiting in line.

Now, National Retail Federation (NRF) CEO Matthew Shay and Retail Industry Leaders Association President Brian Dodge have released guidelines for responsible shopping during the coronavirus pandemic.

An empty shopping cart sits in the aisle of a grocery store.

Maintain at leas six feet of distance from other shoppers when shopping in a store. Image source: Getty Images.

How can you shop responsibly?

One of the biggest problems facing retailers including Costco, Target, and Amazon has been consumers buying more than they need. It's somewhat understandable for people to want to stockpile supplies, but doing so means others won't get items they need.

"If you don't need an item in the next two weeks, leave it for someone who does," wrote Shay and Dodge. "Hoarding and stockpiling creates unnecessary gaps between the time that someone who truly needs a product can find it back on retailers' shelves."

Basically, if everyone takes only what they need, more people can be served. This takes the pressure off of retailers, which have been struggling to meet demand. It also removes the need for stores to impose specific limits on certain items, which can force people with a higher level of need to have to visit multiple retailers to meet their needs -- increasing their time out in public and increasing their risk of exposure to coronavirus.

"Hoarding products only contributes to the fear surrounding the virus, and any hoarder acting with malicious intent to drive up prices on a secondary market should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law," noted Shay and Dodge.

Essential retail remains open for business

Amazon is adding 100,000 workers in its delivery and fulfillment centers to handle the added demand. Needed supplies may not always be readily available, but retailers still have their delivery pipelines operating, and they're working to correct the shortages.

This is a period of dramatic, unexpected increases in demand. Retailers including Amazon, Target, and Costco -- along with Walmart and every major grocery chain -- are taking steps to make sure needed items reach store shelves.

Consumers need to do their part as well. That means only buying what you need and practicing social distancing -- staying at least six feet away from others -- while shopping.

If people do the right thing, this crisis will be easier for everyone to get through. These are unprecedented times, but following these guidelines will keep more people safe and help the United States eventually move past the coronavirus pandemic.