By Richard Rourk
Local grocery workers have pushed forward through fears and worked overtime to ensure that local citizens had food, water, cleaning supplies, sanitizers and of course toilet paper during the current COVID-19 crisis.
“There has been a learning curve adjusting to the new normal, but our Erwin team has been troopers,” Food City of Erwin Manager Jacob Ratliff said. “I’d be lying if I said we haven’t seen a boost in sales and with that our employees have really stepped up to help keep the shelves stocked or to serve our customers. I have employees offering to stay late or come in on their day off to help out. Our orders have doubled overnight.”
Ratliff acknowledged that the use of the curbside pickup service, Food City GoCart, has grown. “We have seen a huge increase in online GoCart orders since the pandemic started,” Ratliff said.
Day-to-day life for employees of the local grocery stores changed drastically due to COVID-19, especially when it comes to safety.
“Our stores are a critical resource for the communities we serve, and we have policies and protocols in place to help ensure they are safe for both employees and customers,” CVS Senior Director of Corporate Communications Mike DeAngelis told The Erwin Record. “All store employees have received protective masks, gloves, hand sanitizer and cleaning supplies. We require all store employees to wear a company-issued mask or their own mask or cloth face covering, and are encouraging our customers to do the same. We have installed protective panels at our pharmacy counters and front-store checkout stations in all stores. We have hourly protocols in place for cleaning hard surfaces and more frequent cleaning of commonly handled items. Disinfecting wipe stations have been placed at the front of each store for our customers to use.
“Store signage reminds customers that the CDC has asked anyone with symptoms or a diagnosis of COVID-19 to remain in quarantine, and for everyone else to observe the proper social distance. We’ve enacted measures to help ensure proper social distancing, including floor markers to help our customers be mindful of how close they are to others. We comply with all capacity guidelines mandated by local officials. In stores located where there are no guidelines, we are limiting occupancy in our stores to 40 to 60 people, depending on the store.”
Food Lion External Communications Manager Matt Harakal acknowledged that Food Lion has also added measures for the safety of their employees and customers.
“Food Lion is fully abiding by all government mandates related to COVID-19,” Harakal said. “This includes any required social distancing guidelines around the number of customers in a store, one-way aisles, signage and markings in the store. Where there are no statewide orders in place, our stores are fully following all local ordinances.”
Grocery store workers are having to work under stress while learning to adapt to a new dress code.
“We recently shipped face shields to associates in our stores across our 10-state footprint,” Harakal said. “In addition, we have advised our associates that they can wear their own masks or cloth face coverings and we have ordered non-medical grade face masks for their use.”
According to Ratliff, Food City is also implementing changes to its employee dress code.
“Our employees and our vendors are required to wear a mask while inside of the store,” Ratliff said. “We also have staff that is dressed to sanitize carts and throughout the store.”
Food Lion has increased its workforce to help meet the needs of its customers.
“In the last three weeks, Food Lion has hired about 9,000 associates across our chain to help serve our customers,” Harakal said. “Every day, Food Lion seeks exceptional talent to serve our customers.”
According to DeAngelis, the employees of CVS are the backbone of the company and deserve to be recognized.
“In recognition of the important role our store employees are playing to assist our customers and patients in these trying times, we’ve provided them with enhanced benefits, including appreciation bonuses, paid sick leave extended to part-time employees, and paid time off to employees who test positive for COVID-19 or are quarantined due to exposure,” DeAngelis said.
DeAngelis is very mindful of the hard work and dedication that his staff at CVS has provided to ensure that their customers are getting the products they need.
“We are also working with our suppliers to meet customer demand for products being sought in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic,” DeAngelis said. “This demand may cause temporary shortages for certain products at some store locations and we re-supply those stores as quickly as possible. To help ensure more customers are able to access the products they need, we have been implementing quantity limits for select, high-demand products such as toilet paper and disinfectant wipes.”
For Ratliff, the heroes of COVID-19 have been and continue to be the employees and customers of Erwin.
“We are all a community – we are in this thing together,” Ratliff said. “I am thankful for the community for following the safety guidelines and for the Erwin Police Department and Chief Regan Tilson for coming by to ensure that everyone is staying safe during this time.”