One of the joys and wonders of living in a walkable area of the city is stopping by the grocery to grab something for dinner. Along the way, you are pretty much guaranteed to see a few interesting things as the residents and workers of the neighborhood come together to gather food and drink. Even in these COVID-19 days, that quick stop and wander through humanity is still an option. But it has taken on a much different mood.
Earlier this week, CHS stopped through the Safeway at 22nd and Madison, one of the hard working groceries serving the central city. There are reports that no matter what comes next including “shelter in place” restrictions, grocery stores in America will remain open. While many of the scenes here in Central Seattle were mundane, others were harder to comprehend. Toilet paper, cleaning supplies, beans, flour, and tofu are probably sold out. There are no eggs unless you get in early.
Still, the vital businesses remain open and are not subject to the state’s restrictions on large gatherings. For now, there is no limit to the number of shoppers that can simultaneously enter a store. Social distancing is more of a suggestion than a command when you’re trying to squeeze down the aisle looking for CInnamon Life.
Besides the picked over shelves and long checkout lines, there aren’t many other signs that things are different. There were no additional security officers at the 22nd and Madison Safeway. The store’s Starbucks was open.
Grocery workers continue to serve through the outbreak. There are reports that more will be hired and that, for some, conditions around sick leave and paid time off are quickly being addressed. Keeping the shelves stocked and the checkout lines moving is a heroic effort.
Meanwhile, a COVID-19 grocery voucher program from the City of Seattle will provide 6,250 families $800 in vouchers “to purchase food, cleaning supplies, and other household goods” at any Safeway store. The city says it is working with private and philanthropic partners “to scale the program to serve significantly more working families” in coming weeks.
How long this part of the COVID-19 response goes on isn’t clear but the inventory and stocking plans from before the first King County infections don’t seem to apply now that we have reached 562. And the various online and delivery options don’t seem to be able to keep up, either. You can fill your online cart but you can’t find an available “delivery window.”
Stores are also cutting back hours to give workers — and the shelves — more time to recover. There are also prohibitions on using “personal bags” for your groceries at most of the chains.
Efforts to make this all work are beginning. This week, most grocers announced special times for “at risk” shoppers. Seniors, pregnant women, and immune system-compromised shoppers are hopefully early risers:
AT RISK SHOPPERS
- Amazon Go Grocery: Not announced
- Central Co-op: 6 AM to 8 AM
- Grocery Outlet: Not announced
- QFCs: Tuesdays and Thursdays 7 AM to 9 AM
- Safeway: 7 AM to 9 AM
- Trader Joe’s: Not announced
- Whole Foods: One hour before opening — 8 AM to 9 AM
And, hopefully, more of these kinds of useful solutions for day to day life — and groceries — are coming.
- 5/4/20: COVID-19 updates: Phase 1 begins, what’s in Phase 2 (and 3 and 4), King County removes antibody testing case counts, COVID-19 yard art
- 5/1/20: Washington extends COVID-19 restrictions through May, readies ‘four phase’ plan for reopening with limits on groups, restaurant capacity, and travel
- 4/30/20: Washington investigating state totals after COVID-19 ‘excess deaths’ report
- 4/30/20: Facing opposition from mayor and chamber advocates, Seattle tax on big businesses for COVID-19 relief and housing moves toward May vote
- Plus: Capitol Hill Restaurants, Bars, and Cafes offering takeout during COVID-19 ‘stay home’ restrictions
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