Next week, members of Wakefern Food Corp. retail cooperative plan to launch a temperature monitoring program for store associates as a safeguard against novel coronavirus (COVID-19).
Keasbey, N.J.-based Wakefern said Friday that stores will use non-contact forehead infrared thermometers to take the temperature of associates as they arrive for work. Any person with an elevated temperature will be sent home. Vendors also will have their temperatures checked.
Plans call for Wakefern to institute temperature monitoring at all stores and warehouses. Overall, the 51-member cooperative has nearly 80,000 employees and 354 supermarkets under the ShopRite, The Fresh Grocer, Price Rite Marketplace, Gourmet Garage and Dearborn Market banners in New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and New Hampshire.
“These are extraordinary times, and we are committed to protecting our associates and customers as we keep our stores open to serve our communities,” Wakefern Chairman and CEO Joe Colalillo said in a statement. “We are closely monitoring the fast-moving COVID-19 emergency, and all new recommendations and CDC protocols, and using that information to guide our decisions. We are proud of our hard-working associates and doing everything we can to support them and keep them safe as they work on the front lines of this public health crisis.”
Earlier this month, Wakefern members installed plexiglass shields at cash registers, customer service counters and pharmacies across all store banners and began limiting occupancy during peak shopping hours. All stores, too, have deployed special signs and floor markers and broadcast in-store announcements to remind customers about social distancing.
Wakefern said that, in line with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines, all store associates will wear protective masks. Stores also are performing deep cleaning and sanitization of food contact surfaces and high-touch areas, such as credit card PIN pads and shopping carts. And at checkout, associates may only pack a customer’s order using store-provided bags.
“So many of us have spent our whole lives in the grocery business and we are committed to feeding families,” Colalillo added. “Today, that commitment includes making important changes to our stores so that we can continue to do what we do best: helping people get the fresh foods and vital supplies they need.”
Also on Friday, Wakefern and its members announced a $1 million donation to regional food banks to help meet skyrocketing consumer demand for food and essential supplies during the coronavirus pandemic.
Wakefern said the funds go to 30 food banks across the nine-state trading area of supermarket banners ShopRite, Price Rite Marketplace and The Fresh Grocer.
“It’s so important for us to support the food banks that are experiencing increased need and demand during this crisis,” Colalillo commented. “In these uncertain times, our members remain committed to supporting the communities our stores serve and will continue to help in the fight against hunger by working with our food bank partners.”
Wakefern’s COVID-19 assistance also has gone beyond foods. Last month, the cooperative donated ShopRite truck trailers to help move hospital equipment to four pop-up field hospitals in New Jersey. And this week, the company donated respiratory protective masks to New York and New Jersey hospitals for frontline medical personnel.
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