CDC Updates Face Mask Guidance
CDC Updates Face Mask Guidance
COVID-19 Resources

CDC Updates Face Mask Guidance

April 8, 2020

Cloth masks are a voluntary public health measure; c-stores work to procure them for employees. 

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) on April 3 issued an updated recommendation regarding the use of face masks to help slow the spread of COVID-19. The agency now says Americans should use simple cloth face coverings as a voluntary public health measure in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain, such as grocery stores, convenience stores and pharmacies, etc.  

“We now know from recent studies that a significant portion of individuals with coronavirus lack symptoms (“asymptomatic”), and that even those who eventually develop symptoms (“pre-symptomatic”) can transmit the virus to others before showing symptoms,” notes the CDC’s website. “This means that the virus can spread between people interacting in close proximity—for example, speaking, coughing, or sneezing—even if those people are not exhibiting symptoms.”

The agency emphasizes the importance of maintaining six-feet social distancing to slow the spread of the virus. Additionally, the use of simple cloth face coverings can help people who may have the virus and not know it from transmitting it to others. CDC notes that the cloth face coverings are not surgical masks or N-95 respirators, which are reserved for health-care workers and other medical first responders, as recommended by current CDC guidance.

Here are two resources for homemade cloth face masks:

  • A YouTube video on how to make a mask from household items like t-shirts and bandanas, and
  • CDC guidance on how to make, wear and clean homemade face masks.

For workers on farms, and in food production, processing, and retail settings who do not typically wear masks as part of their jobs, the CDC suggests that they consider the following if they choose to use a cloth face covering:

NACS communications with retail members suggest that there are many companies that already had  flexible policies on face mask usage prior to the April 3 CDC announcement, and some companies are working to secure masks so long as their inventory requests do not interfere with health-care and other medical workers and first responders obtaining necessary equipment.

Wawa, which is preparing to make masks available for store associates as supplies permit, notes on its website that it has reached out to a number of hospital partners, which have confirmed that the masks Wawa is purchasing do not impact their needs or inventory at this time. Wawa is not procuring the N95 respirator masks that hospitals need, and until masks are delivered to Wawa stores, associates may wear personal masks in the interim.

Giant Eagle said yesterday it is now providing disposable face masks and gloves to its 34,000 store and distribution center workers. “The safety of our Team Members and guests is our #1 priority,” Giant Eagle said in a tweet.

As part of Walgreens’ broader safety measures, the company will be providing face covers to pharmacy staff and other store team members, as well as distribution centers’ staff as another preventive measure to help minimize the spread of COVID-19. Walgreens notes on its website that although the CDC has not updated its guidance for retail pharmacies and face covers, the company is providing them to team members based on ongoing COVID-19 disease prevalence and progression and feedback from health officials.

The Kroger Family of Companies announced that in addition to limiting the number of customers to 50% of the building code’s capacity to allow for proper physical distancing in every store, the retailer is encouraging associates to wear protective masks and gloves. Kroger has ordered masks for associates nationwide, with supply starting to arrive in select regions, with the anticipation of all locations having supply by the end of this week.

Walmart stated on March 31 that is was making face masks and gloves available for store associates who wanted to wear them, as supplies permit. The masks are “high-quality masks but not N95 respirators—which should be reserved for at-risk health-care workers. We encourage anyone who would like to wear a mask or gloves at work to ask their supervisor for them, while keeping in mind that it is still possible to spread germs while wearing them.”

The Food & Beverage Issue Alliance has updated its guidance on the proper use of face masks in retail food environments, noting that the best way to prevent exposure to COVID-19 is through a combination of practices that include hand hygiene, physical (social) distancing and the use of a face covering when appropriate.

From NACS

Read Full Article

OTHER COVID-19 Resources
Discover More About What We Do
Posted on: April 8, 2020
Here are some feel-good stories about retailers serving their neighbors during the pandemic. From giving away goods to dedicated shopping hours for seniors, retailers are showing why they’re the heart of their communities. Here are some stories about convenience retailers and grocers who are going the extra mile to help customers during the coronavirus disease 2019 pandemic. La Crosse, Wisconsin-based Kwik Trip is providing free delivery via EatStreet at more than 70 Wisconsin locations for items such as bread, eggs and toilet paper, Madison Magazine reports. “These are largely unprecedented times, and we want to make it as easy as possible for everyone to get the items they need without having to take on additional costs,” said David Jackson, Kwik Trip’s digital marketing and loyalty manager. “Whether you need bread and eggs, or some comfort food like our famous chicken sandwiches and a Big Buddy, we’re going to make sure you’re able to get what you need without having to leave home.” Choice Market in Denver is offering food pickup or takeout discounts to service industry employees who are hard hit by the sudden closure of in-store dining in bars and restaurants, plus emergency responders who are on the front lines of the public health crisis. “In an effort to support our fellow colleagues who have been the most impacted, Choice is offering a 20% discount on the entire bill for any employee in the service industry as well as any first responders and medical personnel,” Choice said in a notice to customers posted on its website. The hybrid c-store/fast-casual restaurant also is offering $5 off any UberEats delivery of $20 or more to help reduce the delivery expense to customers. Choice Market is featured in the 2019 Ideas 2 Go.  Across the Atlantic in Drylaw, Edinburgh, Day-Today convenience store has given away more than $6,000 in free products to seniors, as a way to help them prepare for quarantines, the Good News Network reports. Owner Zahid Iqbal packaged toilet paper, tissues, anti-inflammatories and antibacterial hand soap into “coronavirus kits” that he delivers for free to customers age 65 and older or to anyone with mobility problems. “We’ve given away more than a thousand now, that’s just over the weekend,” said Iqbal. “It’s a time when we need to stick together.” Meanwhile, some grocery stores and discount stores in the United States are setting aside special times reserved for elderly shoppers to help those most vulnerable to COVID-19 shop for essentials, CBS News reports. Foodtown, a grocery chain of about 30 locations in Texas, is opening its doors from 7 to 8 a.m. “to allow those ages 65 and older to shop in a less crowded environment,” the company announced on its website. Starting Thursday, Massachusetts-based Stop & Shop will open earlier to serve only customers who are age 60 and older from 6 a.m. to 7:30 a.m., the company announced on its website. At Dollar General, the first hour stores are open will be for older shoppers only, USA Today reports. The chain is encouraging other customers to please shop “around this window of time to allow the most susceptible customers in our communities the ability to shop during the first hour that stores are open.” From NACS Read Full Article
Posted on: April 8, 2020
From California to Massachusetts, c-stores face varied circumstances as they put new protocols in place and rush to identify opportunities. As COVID-19 disrupts lives and businesses across the globe, U.S. convenience stores are experiencing different realities depending on their location, but many are already adapting by evaluating new opportunities to meet changing customer needs in the midst of chaos. At press time, California, Ohio, Illinois, Massachusetts and Washington closed bars and restaurants beginning Monday, March 16, in effort to slow coronavirus, while internet rumors swirled — and which The National Security Council warned are “fake” — that a national lockdown could be imminent. As lockdowns emerge, tech-forward companies already offering order-ahead, pick-up at store and/or delivery may see an advantage as customers look for alternate ways to buy products while staying home. Amazon has seen such an uptick in delivery orders that it announced plans to hire an additional 100,000 temporary employees and raise wages. Convenience stores have an opportunity to also step up on delivery. C-Store Advantage C-stores have many advantages over other channels, Mel Kleiman, founder of Humetrics pointed out. For example, they don’t usually have the long lines grocery stores are known for, making them ideal stops for people concerned with social distancing. “Yes, there are going to be major disruptions in your operations, but let’s figure out how to make it a positive for growth, customer retention, employee involvement, as well as positive PR for your company and the industry as a whole,” he said. Savvy c-store retailers are looking for the opportunities, whether that means figuring out ways for customers to order at the pump, or passing out DIY hand sanitizer recipes or considering new ways to offer support to parents or communities. On March 16, Alltown Fresh, which operates four locations — two in Massachusetts and two in Connecticut — announced on Twitter that it was introducing order ahead and curbside pickup at its Massachusetts locations. Customers can call to place their order, and then call again when they arrive. The items are brought to the car, reducing social contact. “Stay tuned for the rollout to our (Connecticut) locations,” Alltown Fresh tweeted. Ashland, Ky.-based Clark’s Pump-N-Shop, with stores in Kentucky, Ohio, West Virginia and Florida, also took to Twitter to remind customers that its drive-throughs are an option for picking up supplies.The chain also announced that it’s hiring at ALL locations. Wawa, Pa.-based Wawa, which operates more than 860 c-stores in seven states, also posted on Twitter to educate customers about its delivery services. Altoona, Pa.-based Sheetz, which operates 600 stores in six states, tweeted to remind customers about its mobile app, which has a mobile point-of-sale so customers can scan, pay and go quickly without worrying about lines. It also allows customers to order ahead made-to-order foodservice items and pick them up curbside or in-store. The View From California In California, despite slower store and gas volume on Monday, March, 16, Rotten Robbie Gas Stations saw an uptick in non-edible grocery and take-home water sales, said Reilly Robinson Musser, vice president of marketing and merchandising for Robinson Oil Corp. dba Rotten Robbie Gas Stations, which operates 34 c-stores in California. Most schools in the area are closed for at least three weeks, and tech companies, such as Apple, Google and Facebook are allowing employees to work from home. “Restaurants are empty and people seem to be taking things seriously,” Musser said. Robinson Oil sent guidance information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to all employees and provided extra hand sanitizers and gloves. It’s asked employees to take precautions as far as social distancing, etc. Employees are asked to stay home if they are feeling sick and area managers are keeping in touch with all employees. They’re asking people to be flexible with scheduling to help accommodate those who have to stay at home with kids or who are out sick. aymond Huff, president of Denver-based HJB Convenience Corp., which operates 19 Russell’s Convenience stores in four states, began to see the effect of COVID-19 last Wednesday, March 11.  “Our stores are in the central business districts of Los Angeles, Denver and San Francisco.  Sales were off 12% on Wednesday, 18% on Thursday and 22% on Friday. Prior to the crisis sales were trending up about 7%,” he said. While Russell’s is a tech forward company, offering frictionless checkout through the SKIP app, as well as two Russell’s Express micro marts, the buildings where the micro marts  operate have emptied, making identifying new opportunities more of a challenge. At its convenience stores employees are allowed to wear masks, if they choose and are washing hands every hour as well as when they touch surfaces, such as stainless steel.  “We are sanitizing all surfaces where customers touch hourly with the bleach and water mixture required by the health department,” Huff said. All Russell’s Convenience employees receive sick leave and vacation time. Huff added each area is implementing a plan of action. “In my opinion, the U.S. should just close everything down for two weeks, let this thing run its course and get us back to business,” Huff said. Silver Linings in Chicago Following news of the bar and restaurant ban in Chicago, The PRIDE Store’s Owner & CEO Mario Spina noted the chain’s brewery and tasting room would be closed but customers could still purchase the brand’s packaged beer inside its 15 Chicagoland PRIDE Convenience Stores, plus any other locations that sell 93 Octane.  The c-store chain’s restaurants — which include Urban Counter, Taco Urbano and Pride Café — will continue to offer carry-out and delivery through Uber Eats. “With many grocery stores being hit hard by consumers stocking up on products, our restaurants could continue to be busy because of the lack of options available,” Spina said. Stores were busy ahead of the lockdown.  “We have seen stores run out of dairy products, cleaning supplies and other miscellaneous home items. We are in the process of increasing the inventory carried at each store to be able to provide those core items to our customers,” Spina said. Protocols are changing too. Each cashier must wear plastic gloves during their shifts. The usually 24/7 stores are now closing from 1 a.m. to 3 a.m. for a deep sanitation, although dispensers remain open for fueling. “We will also sanitize our dispensers (keypads and nozzles specifically) multiple times throughout the day. Luckily, a few years ago we installed hand sanitizers at each door for our customers,” Spina said. Managers are instructed to keep an eye out for team members showing flu-like symptoms. “Open communication regarding this is crucially important,” Spina said. Convenience stores across the country are beefing up their store sanitation and employee hygiene practices and alerting customers to the changes they are making to keep them safe. As CStore Decisions reported yesterday, Sheetz and Kum & Go both announced plans to extend paid sick leave to employees impacted by the virus. The c-store industry is no stranger to transformation in difficult times. It evolved from two-bay garages servicing cars to gas stations with “Cokes & smokes” shops to foodservice powerhouses offering frictionless checkout options. If there’s one thing this industry excels at it’s finding success by thinking outside the box amid changing circumstances. Humetric’s Kleiman pushed convenience retailers to think in terms of opportunities they can be building now when customers need them most. “The question to you is, what can you do to not only survive, but thrive?” From Convenience Store Decisions Read Full Article