Jack Norman of Norman’s Outdoor Sports in Cut Bank measures off six feet to remind customers checking out to “social distance” while shopping for their essential items. Businesses are implementing safety and cleaning practices due to COVID-19. 

The world and our place in it does not feel as safe anymore. Every day there is more news reinforcing what we need to do to stay healthy–stay at home as much as possible, wash your hands, do not touch your face and keep a safe distance from everyone. And yet, we need to get out, to go to the grocery store, the hardware store, mail our bills or packages.

What are those places, the ones we need to frequent, doing to keep not only their employees safe, but to keep the items we come in contact with while at those places, as germ-free as possible? 

“Big Sky Foods has gone to great lengths to give our customers the cleanest, safest shopping experience,” said co-owner Jim Reiter. “We are working as hard as we can to stock the much needed supplies our community is looking for during all times, but especially now. We have put plexiglass barriers in our check stands, customer service and deli areas.”

Reiter said they have issued masks to each employee, and have latex gloves available at every work station. The check stands, carts, door handles and bathrooms are being disinfected after almost every use or interaction, he added.

“Big Sky Foods is taking this horrible pandemic very seriously, and invite everyone in need of a clean, safe, friendly, shopping experience to come in, and we will do everything we can to get them the items they need,” concluded Reiter.

Kathy Holland, Communi-cations and Public Rela-tions for Albertson’s Inter-mountain Division said, “We have taken enhanced measures to clean and disinfect all departments, restrooms and other high-touch points of the store throughout the day, as well as a deep cleanse at the end of each business day. Cart wipes and hand sanitizer stations continue to be available at key locations within the store for your convenience.”

A new safety feature Albertson’s installed at each checkout station is a plexiglass sheet. “The plexiglass will serve as a protective barrier between customers and cashiers and provide added reassurance and peace of mind,” Holland stated. 

“We have also placed posters around the store and are marking off spacing on the ground, to remind our customers to practice social distancing and remain six feet, essentially two shopping carts, apart to avoid coming in contact with anyone who may have been infected by COVID-19, but not yet exhibiting symptoms. We are constantly looking for solutions to help us improve this practice in our stores,” she added.

“Our shopping hours have been adjusted to give our teams the time they need to restock shelves and get ready to serve the community.”

Billman’s Inc. is working overtime to keep things clean and sanitized for their staff and for their customers. “We have hand sanitizers available at the front counter and are encouraging our customers to use it on their way into the store. We are also wiping down shopping carts and baskets with a bleach solution after each use. Door handles, front counters and other ‘high-touch’ areas are being disinfected at least once per hour,” said Jeff Billman.

Their employees have always worn nitrile box handler gloves when receiving and handling freight and they are also encouraging their cashiers to wear latex gloves at the front counter as they too are handling merchandise and cash. 

Billman’s Inc. has suspended all in-home appliance installation and repair, other than emergency cases. “We are still doing curb-side delivery and servicing appliances which are brought to our store for repair,” he said. 

Billman continued, “Our crew is trying to maintain a safe distance away from customers and we have marked off a six-foot waiting area around our counter to keep people from congregating together. This is one of our biggest challenges since our front counter tends to turn into a ‘gathering place’ for customers who haven’t seen each other in a while.”

They are also asking their customers to not come into the store if they are sick or have been exposed. “You can call your order in and pick it up curbside or we can deliver it to your front door,” he explained. 

“Don’t shop in large groups,” advised Billman. “Leave the children under the age of 13 at home or supervised in your vehicle. Kids just don’t understand that they can’t go around touching everything they see. And it is impossible for our crew to disinfect every surface in the store,” he shared. 

Billman said calling in your order or shopping online helps limit time in the store. “You can shop online and complete the entire purchase without stepping foot in our store.” 

And finally, he added, “Be kind and courteous to the workers you encounter in every place you shop. Remember they are out there on the front lines of this craziness making sure that essential goods remain available. Respect the social distancing and any individual restrictions for the stores you enter. Keep all the essential employees safe and healthy.”

Billman concluded, “We are fortunate to live in an area where it is easy to avoid big crowds and to keep social distance. The people in our area have always looked out for each other and I think we will see that more now than ever before. If we all work together and use some common sense, we will get through this and back to normal life.” 

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