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A year of COVID-19: As pandemic overwhelmed the nation, the grocery industry faced up to the challenge

One year after the coronavirus was deemed a national emergency and lockdowns began, SN takes a chronological look at how grocery retail was impacted and responded

Beginning in January 2020, word began to slowly spread in the United States of a mysterious and deadly virus in Wuhan, China, that was threatening to extend to other parts of the world. It didn’t take long — within a month, the coronavirus had reached Europe and the United States and its tragic toll was beginning to be felt. On Feb. 6, the first American died from COVID-19 in Santa Clara County, Calif.

It was the beginning of a devastating pandemic that would eventually take more than 500,000 American lives and sicken nearly 30 million people in the country. The impact on all Americans was swift and staggering — as the pandemic was deemed a national emergency by the White House on March 13, schools and businesses were closed, lockdowns and social distancing guidelines were implemented throughout the country and health care workers faced a crisis of staggering proportions.

Amid all this chaos and tragedy, the grocery business found itself in a challenging position. While most businesses and restaurants were closing in the spring, supermarkets — as essential businesses — stayed open to keep the country fed and supplied, and quickly turned their focus to safety, adding measures to protect workers and customers, while struggling with supply chain issues, panic buying by the public and a labor shortage caused by the increased demand for workers to clean stores, stock shelves, care for customers and, increasingly, to fulfill online orders, which became a huge part of their business virtually overnight.

As we look back on one year of COVID-19 in the United States, Supermarket News offers a timeline of key events throughout the pandemic — and more specifically, critical moments showing the impact and response of the food retail industry — to offer a sense of how the crisis developed and how Supermarket News covered the major issues relating to the pandemic.

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