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WinCo adapts in wake of COVID-19; Two local store employees tested positive

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COVID-19 Idaho

Boise-based WinCo Foods operates nearly 130 stores across the western US. Like many grocers, the company continues to adapt to the changing conditions brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Two employees – one each at the Meridian and Eagle stores – contracted the novel coronavirus in recent weeks, according to WinCo Director of Corporate Communications Noah Fleisher.

“The response at the stores (included) employees notified, areas closed, deep cleaned, continued multiple disinfecting and cleanings,” he wrote in an email. He said the response was the same as how the grocer responded to cases at stores in the Portland area earlier this month.

“(The employees) have all been off work for more than two weeks at this point,” he wrote. “We have no reason to believe there is any threat to our customers or our employee-owners from this.”

Protecting employees, customers

More broadly, Fleisher said the company responded with an array of measures to protect worker safety. Employees own and control WinCo Foods, with many workers holding shares in the company.

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Customers at WinCo, like other grocers in the area, will see a limit on the number of people who can enter at any one time. The stores also started social distancing protocols. Employees now wear cloth masks, and plexiglass shielding went up on check stands.

[Q&A with Albertsons: Worker safety, hiring furloughed workers, COVID precautions – and when the TP might return]

Fleisher said stepped up cleaning measures include increased spot cleaning and disinfecting of high touch and high traffic areas.

He also said the company has worked to boost employee pay, but didn’t provide further details.

He also said WinCo started to see supply chain improvements around shortages, but didn’t offer further information. Photos of bare store shelves at WinCo and most other grocers continue to rocket around social media. Customer demand shifts and possible hoarding quickly depleted supplies of some goods like toilet paper and disinfectant wipes.

WinCo also stepped back from 24-hour operations in March. Most stores now open between 7am and 10pm. Seniors and other vulnerable citizens get special early shopping hours on Tuesday and Thursday from 6am-7:30am.

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Don Day
Don is the founder and editor of BoiseDev. He is a National Edward R. Murrow Award winner and a Stanford University John S. Knight Fellow.

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