Grocers take bold steps to help prevent the spread of disease

2 weeks 2 days 19 hours ago Saturday, March 14 2020 Mar 14, 2020 Saturday, March 14, 2020 2:57:00 PM CDT March 14, 2020 in News
By: David Kitchin, Missourian Reporter
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COLUMBIA - Hy-Vee, Schnucks and Gerbes supermarkets have taken measures to lower the risk of the spread of the human coronavirus 19 by closing self-serve food bars and buffets, ending food sampling and increasing sanitation.

In a news release Friday from its corporate headquarters, Hy-Vee provided a detailed list of measures it's taking, including temporarily closing self-serve food areas, "including salad, olive, hummus and soup bars, as well as all other open food bars."

The chain also took the step of ending its buffets, including pasta, fish fry and steak nights, and offering those foods from behind the counter.

Schnucks has said it will discontinue all sampling events, but that for the time being, its self-serve food bars were open.

Local Hy-Vee stores had already shut down their bulk bins, salad bars and other self-service Friday.

Hy-Vee also provided details about measures taken in other areas of their stores, including:

  • Increasing sanitization protocols throughout stores.
  • Regularly cleaning and disinfecting knobs, handles and surfaces, with extra emphasis on door handles, checkout PIN pads, restrooms, and "other high-touch areas."
  • Making more sanitizing wipes and hand sanitizer available to customers
  • Canceling all food sampling programs, temporarily
  • Switching to pre-wrapped cutlery and condiments
  • Providing customers with more information about appropriate washing of produce
  • Suspending customer use of their own travel mugs at Starbucks and other in-house coffee stands.

Grocers were also addressing the problem of shortages. Hy-Vee is looking at additional suppliers, and Schnucks was coordinating with its warehouses to ensure shipment of products as soon as they're available. Gerbes has placed a limit on how many cold, flu and sanitation items customers can buy to help stabilize store supplies and make it easier to coordinate restocking. 

Grocers are emphasizing that shoppers can get sanitation wipes at the entrances of stores and use sanitizer dispensers at customer service and checkout areas. 

Store employees have been encouraged to stay home if sick.

Compensation plans for employees affected by the virus are being circulated. Gerbes has a company-sponsored Helping Hands fund that will provide financial support for employees directly affected.

As concern for the disease continues to grow, businesses and schools have said that they will continue to monitor the situation and adapt as necessary.

One tiny bit of good news: Kids can still get free cookies or a piece of fruit at Hy-Vee but they'll be handed over by an employee wearing gloves.

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