Many Yellowknifers are staying home from work and school during the Covid-19 pandemic but an unavoidable part of life is leaving the house to go grocery shopping.
Trips to the store can be anxiety-inducing because of the large numbers of people potentially passing on and being exposed to coronavirus.
But supermarkets in Yellowknife are making efforts to reduce the risk of exposure to viruses for staff and shoppers.
According to an advisory issued by Chief Public Health Officer Kami Kandola, large retail outlets like grocery stores are considered essential services and can remain open during the pandemic, subject to some conditions.
The stores are strongly advised to maintain two-metre separations between people inside, and employees and customers should frequently wash their hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or use hand sanitizer with an alcohol content of at least 60 per cent.
While those are the minimum conditions under which stores should operate, supermarkets in Yellowknife have made additional health-related adjustments.
The Trevor’s and Glen’s Independent supermarkets, owned by parent company Loblaws, have taken several safety measures over the last few weeks.
Both stores at different times of the day have customers line up at the entrance and manage their entries so that not too many are in the store at once. Staff have been seen standing with clipboards noting how many customers are shopping.
Hand sanitizer and portable water dispensers with soap are offered to customers once they’re inside.
Brightly coloured tape has been laid on the shops’ floors to measure six feet so that customers can maintain social distance. Plexiglass dividers at the checkout aisles separate cashier staff from customers.
The Independent shops have also seen growth in their pickup services for customers who choose to shop online.
“Our PC Express business has more than doubled in recent weeks as the numbers of Canadians shopping from home continues to spike,” stated an unsigned statement from Loblaws.
“This is driven in part by the encouragement to social distance, but also because we’ve dropped fees and prices to make sure those who need the service don’t face cost barriers. As demand grows, we’re finding new ways to serve more people, faster. That means more equipment, more capacity in pick-up windows, and more staff.”
Luluz Market has stated on social media that it provides curbside pickup and grocery delivery, however the store didn’t respond to NNSL inquiries by press time.
The superstore chain has introduced a range of protocols at the Old Airport Road location.
Cleaning routines have been ramped up and carts, baskets, checkout areas and doors are wiped down by staff during the day and overnight, said company spokesperson Felicia Fefer.
Unique to Walmart, staff at the checkouts put the receipts into customers’ bags, not into their hands, said Fefer.
“(And) customers with reusable bags will be required to bag their own purchases.”
Like other stores, Walmart has put in social distancing signage and plexiglass dividers at its pharmacy and front checkouts, as well as limits on how many customers can be in the shop at one time.
High demand on products has spurred Walmart to set limits on some items.
“We are also working hard with our suppliers to get products onto our shelves as quickly as possible and we hope to be in a place to start to reduce the number of limits we have in our stores soon,” Fefer said.
Opening hours have been adjusted from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily to allow staff more time to stock products and sanitize the premises.
Shopping from 7 a.m. to 8 a.m. on weekdays is reserved exclusively for seniors, customers with vulnerable health conditions and the disabled.