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Grocery stores adjust hours, provide extra cleaning during COVID-19 pandemic

Plastic bag fees waived in an effort to stem the use of cloth
ATHABASCA – Grocery chains have set aside shopping time at their stores that will be designated for those most vulnerable to COVID-19. 

Starting March 18 Loblaws operations, including Independent Grocer locations throughout the region, moved to allow seniors and people needing extra assistance to shop an hour before the stores open to the general public. Buy-Low and Co-op are offering the same hours and help. 

Loblaws public relations confirmed the change in a March 17 email saying, “Most of our close to 2,500 stores (including grocery and Shoppers Drug Mart pharmacies) across the country will offer early, dedicated hours for those who are most vulnerable, including seniors and those living with disabilities. Tipton’s Your Independent Grocer will offer this service from 8 to 9 a.m. daily.” 

All three local grocery stores have waived delivery or pick-up fees to accommodate those who want to shop online or place orders over the phone and have suspended charging $0.05 for plastic bags in an effort to prevent people from bringing in cloth bags. If you do bring cloth, you will have to pack your own groceries. 

In a March 21 Facebook post Dave Tipton, owner of Tipton’s Your Independent Grocer, gave a list of changes including to store hours. 

“We’ve set aside 8 a.m. to 9 a.m. so that seniors and others who need assistance can shop,” he wrote. “Our regular hours are now 9 a.m. – 8 p.m. to make sure our stores are well stocked and sanitized, and to give our employees a well-deserved break.” 

Many businesses are also asking people to avoid using cash whenever possible, including Tipton’s store. 

“We’ve asked that cash transactions be avoided if possible and cards used for payment instead. We also will not be giving cash back on debit transactions,” Tipton said. 

A March 19 email from Loblaws president Galen Weston added that stores will also start limiting the number of people allowed in to shop. 

“Over the next few days, we will begin limiting the number of customers allowed in our busiest stores at the same time. This will make it much easier for you and our colleagues to practice social distancing,” Weston explained. “When the aisles are jam-packed, giving people the appropriate amount of space is just too difficult. For those stores, the specific capacity will be determined based on their size. And, wherever possible, we will only open every other checkout lane, also to encourage social distancing. In short, more space for everyone.” 

Dan Bregg, the president of Buy-Low foods responded to questions by email saying they are increasing cleaning levels and encouraging staff and customers to use good hygiene. 

“Stores have increased the frequency of cleaning, paying close attention to high touch areas such as restrooms, register areas, grocery carts and hand baskets,” Bregg said. “With guidance from health authorities we are emphasizing hygiene practices which we know are a front-line defense from any illness.” 

Heather Stocking,
Follow me on Twitter @HLSox