By Sammi Cohen
Just a few short months ago, Wegmans made headlines for its willingness to lead the charge ahead of the statewide plastic bag ban. While annual polyethylene production clocks in at around 80 million tons worldwide, the popular grocery store chain was willing to be the first to tell its customers they’d need to make the switch to reusable or paper bags instead.
But now, Rochester’s hometown supermarket is being subjected to even more pressure to our rapidly changing world. As COVID-19 continues to impact thousands of Flower City residents, Wegmans is evolving almost as quickly as new cases are confirmed.
Following a bit of backlash on social media pertaining to the lack of masks being worn by workers in Wegmans stores, the chain officially announced on April 8 that they would be providing face masks to its employees. The chain previously announced workers would be allowed to wear masks, but those workers would need to provide their own face coverings. Following Governor Cuomo’s recent order for all individuals in New York state to wear face masks in public areas where social distancing measures could not be followed, Wegmans has mandated that all customers also wear face coverings while in their stores.
Wegmans has also begun to perform wellness checks on their workers at the beginning of each shift. These wellness checks consist of a few questions about the employee’s health and a thermometer reading. Any employee who has a fever of at least 100 degrees Fahrenheit will be instructed to go home with pay. The chain will also cover the cost of telemedicine services for employees who do not have a doctor. Since at least two different Wegmans employees have subsequently tested positive for COVID-19, the store has since implemented detailed protocols to follow in the event that other coronavirus cases are confirmed among their workforce.
A select number of Wegmans locations, including the popular East Avenue branch, were selected by the state of New York to act as coronavirus antibody testing centers. These tests aim to confirm whether an individual had previously been infected by the novel coronavirus in an effort to provide vital information about the disease’s spread and whether immunity has been built up as a result. At each of the 20 different grocery stores chosen by the state, five nurses working on behalf of the Department of Health have been charged with the responsibility of conducting up to 150 antibody tests. These tests can be performed on customers or employees of the store with their consent.
Although trucks move roughly 71.5% of the nation’s freight by weight, the increased need for essentials and subsequent panic-buying taught both consumers and store operators a tough lesson about the rules of supply and demand. In the interest of public health, Wegmans has taken steps to limit the number of customers allowed in their stores at any one time during the pandemic. Stores have already made sizeable cuts to their operational hours, but they now plan to ensure stores are operating at 15% to 20% of their maximum occupancy. This has resulted in having customers wait in lines at certain locations and at certain times to prevent stores from becoming too crowded.
But while the chain is trying to limit customer interactions, they’re also trying to make the shopping process easier. The available in select locations prior to the pandemic, it’s a welcome addition in light of social distancing procedures. Using the app, customers can actually use their phones to scan their items as they shop. If, say, you own one of the 75 million pet dogs in the U.S. and plan on adding a heavy bag of dog food to your cart, you can simply scan it when you take it off the shelf. Then, you can finalize your cart when you arrive at self-checkout, reducing time at the register and limiting necessary interaction with others.
Ultimately, no COVID-19 grocery shopping experience will be perfect — even if you’re a loyal Wegmans fan. But given the brand’s willingness to provide residents with what they need while making concerted efforts to keep everyone safe, a Weggies trip will probably be your least stressful option when trying to fill up the pandemic pantry.
Tags: covid-19, Rochester, Wegman's
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