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Spokane-area grocery stores working hard to sanitize high-traffic surfaces

UPDATED: Wed., March 25, 2020

Plexiglas screens have been installed between customers and cashiers at Rosauers stores in Spokane. (Courtesy Rosauers Supermarkets)
Plexiglas screens have been installed between customers and cashiers at Rosauers stores in Spokane. (Courtesy Rosauers Supermarkets)

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Shoppers at the Rosauers in north Spokane were greeted Wednesday with an employee holding a spray bottle and a towel. He wiped down every cart handle before handing it to shoppers.

Inside the store at 1724 W. Francis Ave. were orange Xs taped to the floor to let shoppers know how far apart they needed to stand while waiting in line to keep a 6-foot social distance between them, other shoppers and employees. Other stores in Spokane are doing the same.

As stores and managers ramp up workforces to keep shelves stocked during panic buying caused by the coronavirus outbreak, they have also assigned employees to continually wipe down those areas where the virus could possibly be spread.

“We are wiping anywhere somebody may have touched a cart, door handles and checkstands,” Rosauers store manager Jim Dailey said. “We are wiping down those surfaces throughout the day.”

In addition to hiring more employees to clean stores and stock shelves, store managers at Rosauers, Safeway, Yoke’s Fresh Market and Costco are taking new measures to try to keep shoppers and employees separated.

Jeff Philipps, president and CEO of Rosauers, said the company’s stores on Wednesday began installing Plexiglas walls at the checkstands, customer service counters and pharmacy counters to protect both shoppers and employees during the pandemic.

Safeway and Albertsons stores throughout Washington state are taking the same measures to install Plexiglas barriers.

“During the grocery checkout process we recognize that it is difficult to maintain the recommended space for social distancing, so we wanted to take this extra step, to not only protect our associates who are constant contact with the public, but also provide our customers with extra reassurance as well,” Karl Schroeder, president of Safeway Albertsons Seattle Division, said in a news release.

Most managers of Spokane stores have carved out hours in the mornings of Tuesday and Thursday to allow vulnerable shoppers, such as older people and those with health issues, to shop before others. Doing so gives them a chance to purchase key items without interacting with a general public that could infect them with the coronavirus.

They also have begun to limit the number of some items that may be purchase to help ensure more shoppers have a chance at the most popular items.

“It helps them get their needs met,” Mark Jones, assistant store director at the Safeway at 902 W. Francis Ave, said. “They were fearful to come out with everything going on.”

Jones, like Dailey at Rosauers, said he has directed employees to follow a sanitizing schedule each day.

“Every hour on the hour, they sanitize every area of the store,” Jones said. “It’s labor intensive, but it’s the right thing to do to ensure the safety of our customers and our employees.”

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