Now Deemed 'Essential' Businesses, Some N.H. Grocery Stores Take Additional Precautions
Grocery stores and gas stations are among the businesses deemed "essential" under Governor Chris Sununu's new stay-at-home order.
The Hanover Food Co-op, which owns four stores in the Upper Valley and employs close to 400 people, is one grocery store company taking additional steps to keep employees and customers safe.
Lori Hildbrand, director of administrative operations at the Co-op, says the stay-at-home order hasn’t changed the way the Co-op does business.
But the company has added some more precautions as the coronavirus situation continues to unfold, including putting Plexiglas shields at cash registers.
“In order to keep the social distancing at the cash register – which is hard to do - we decided this was a good measure to take for our frontline employees,” she said.
Other stores, including Hannaford’s, have also added Plexiglas barriers at cash registers. The company has also swapped out some of its canisters in the bulk aisles, removing those that required a customer to use a scoop.
Hildbrand said her stores have stepped up its daily cleaning and sanitizing routines, and also gets a deep clean every night by a third party company. There’s hand sanitizer throughout the stores and customers can request gloves for shopping.
Hildbrand says the Co-op had discussed the possibility of employees using gloves during this time. But they decided it would be best if employees continued frequent hand washing and sanitizing, “as opposed to having gloves build up dirt during the day and being used in different areas."
Hildbrand says the Co-op is not planning on restricting the number of people at a store at one time.
“Even though it sounds really good on paper, you may be keeping someone from a vital necessity without knowing it,” she said.
But some Co-op employees have expressed concern about working during this time, and have decided to stay home instead using their paid time off.
That leaves Hildbrand with about 30 openings for part-time jobs she’s looking to fill. She says the applications are coming in quickly.
“Normally we get about 10 [applications] in one week,” she said. “We got 22 in 24 hours.”
Hildbrand says the co-op wanted to do something tangible for employees by providing each employee a $300 bonus that covered a period of three weeks.
“’Thank you’ only goes so far, and we wanted to do something tangible,” she said.
The Co-op is working on ways to continue that for employees in the coming weeks.